Ack Värmeland, Stan, Miles And A Question

Rifftides reader Red Sullivan (pictured), who is Irish, plays the flute and lives in Rio de Janeiro, wrote a comment and question about the Swedish folk song cum jazz standard mentioned in the review of the recent Quincy Jones celebration at the Ystad festival. Others may be interested in the music that prompted his curiosity. The comment and reply are posted with the Jones item four exhibits down. For those who might otherwise miss them, here they are:

And Miles very wonderfully and prominently took up “Ack Värmeland du sköna,” too, for his perfect, important, Columbia Records album ‘Round About Midnight – overlooked album sometimes, but as great a statement as that classic quintet ever made. EVER! So, is the “Ack Värmeland” there inspired by Getz directly, do you happen to know? i.e. Chicken or Egg…? (Nor should it be any surprise to anyone that Miles may well have taken his cue from Getz. He really adored Getz…. After all, he had good taste in music!).

So: What was Miles connection to the Swedish theme: Getz, or personal?

The Getz recording with pianist Bengt Hallberg, bassist Gunnar Johnson and drummer Jack Noren was on the Swedish Metronome label. Shortly after they made it in 1951, the Prestige label released it in the US under the title, “Dear Old Stockholm.” It quickly became familiar to American musicians, including, no doubt, Davis, who recorded it in 1956. The Getz recording observes the song’s original folk-like AABA structure, with its unusual four-bar B section. Davis altered the song by adding interludes that may have been suggested by Gil Evans. The booklet for the Columbia Legacy reissue of Davis’s ‘Round About Midnight album identifies the piece as “traditional, arranged by Stan Getz,” but the Getz recording does not have the interludes. Purists prefer the unadulterated original, but the altered Davis version is pervasive. It is the one that musicians’ fake books have adopted.

For the record (heh-heh), here is the 1951 Getz version. For anyone unfamiliar with Hallberg, this is a perfect way to hear why his keyboard touch and harmonic concept captivated so many listeners.

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  1. Red Sullivan says

    I think we must conclude, then, that Miles dug the Getz record – dug it a lot (no surprise: he was certainly a Getz advocate, as was Coltrane, of course: BIG TIME. So was Lester Young, after the fact, you might say).

    (Not to mention, tangentially, how Bird loved Paul Desmond so……..).

    I find myself in favor of Miles’ “interludes” and conception here – and, in the context of all the recent to-and-fro here on Rifftides and JazzWax of the “Solar”/Chuck Wayne controversy, and where Miles got slammed for traducing Monk, and Benny Carter (I was the one inconsolable over “When Lights Are Low”: I still can’t fathom how Miles did that) – oh, and the early John Lewis bop masterpiece “Milestones” (the one with changes) that somehow has Miles’ name on it too – I’d like to advance one more curiosity:

    Even in the context of all that, and the Eddie Cleanhead Vinson tunes with Miles’ name on – it seems (?) that, actually, “Donna Lee” IS Miles’ own line, not Bird’s, but really is Miles’……….. Anyone?

  2. Terence Smith says

    Stan Getz recorded “Dear Old Stockholm” again in Europe( after the second Miles version). I think Martial Solal was the pianist. It’s really great, and I think I remember they used the interludes a la the Miles version. I can’t find it among my records to confirm the possible double cross-pollination between Stan and Miles on this.

    On the subject of the strange aptness of Swedish folk song to “jazz” interpretation (and the recent Bill Evans strands on Rifftides:

    When I saw this post, I immediately thought of the Monica Zetterlund album with the Bill Evans Trio: the OTHER “Waltz for Debby” album, the one on the Phillips label. Bill looked up Monica in Sweden in 1964, because he had heard a recording of “Waltz for Debby” to which Monica had set Swedish lyrics. Apparently Monica sprang three traditional Swedish folk songs on Bill at the recording session. The arrangements and solos Bill came up with on the spot are some of the most hauntingly beautiful things he only did once. They could easily become standards. The English titles provided on the LP are “Beautiful Rose” (Jag Vet en Dejlig Rosa), “Sorrow Wind” (Vandarna Sucka Uti Skogarna), and “In the Night” (Om Natten). Hear them sometime. In fact the whole session is a gem with no flaws. And in the Japanese CD rerelease, you can hear Bill’s phenomenally distinct approaches on different takes of the same tunes, following Monica’s every whim as if he were her id, or her unrepentant conscience.

    Bill Evans said that there is a universal musical mind with dialects of preference and familiarity. In his Harmony of Bill Evans, vol. 2 Jack Reilly quotes Bill as saying;

    “The goal of jazz is a high spiritual and social goal that even those involved don’t fully understand…it seems to me that music has done more to transcend social, religious, racial, and geographic boundaries than any other force, and at the top of this force is jazz…the unification of many cultures..and traditions .Perhaps it can help to lead the world to greater love and understanding. If this doesn’t happen, I am pessimistic about the future of society at large. This country is surely the proving ground.”

    I think Bill has something there, and that the spirit of the music of Brazil and Sweden are particularly resonant in jazz. A joy within a sadness and vice versa, a clarity within a mystery.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      One of the preeminent collections of Swedish music interpreted by jazz musicians is Art Farmer’s 1964 album To Sweden with Love. Farmer, guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Pete LaRoca reflect the qualities Mr. Smith identifies in the final paragraph of his comment. All of the pieces are traditional Swedish songs. From the album, here is “De Salde Sinn Hemmane” (“They Sold Their Homestead”).

      To Sweden With Love can be hard to find. Go here to see options, including a CD that pairs the album with the remarkable Farmer quartet’s Live At The Half Note.