The list of veterans of the glory days of modern jazz in Sweden grew significantly shorter on Tuesday with the death of Arne Domnérus at the age of eighty-three. The alto saxophonist and clarinetist came to popular attention in the late 1940s and early 1950s as one of the most adroit disciples of Charlie Parker and Lee Konitz. Within a few years, his own personality emerged and he distinguished himself as a soloist immediately recognizable for the individuality and warmth of his playing. Those aspects of Domnérus’s work were emphasized today in his obituary in the British newspaper the Telegraph.
His playing mellowed with age until, by the 1980s, it had attained a state of great expressive simplicity. While it was still possible to trace early influences in his style on both saxophone and clarinet, he could no longer be fitted into any conventional jazz category.
With pianist Bengt Hallberg, baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin, clarinetist Stan Hasselgard, trumpeter Rolf Ericson and a few other pioneers of modern jazz in Sweden, Domnérus became recognized as a peer of the best young American jazz musicians. His approach was cooler than that of the fieriest Parker acolytes, but he worked on an equally high level of creativity. When American musicians visited Sweden, they often recorded with Domnérus. He was prominent as a soloist when Clifford Brown and Art Farmer collaborated in 1953 with the Swedish All-Stars in four tracks included in this CD set.
Jan Lundgren today occupies a place in Swedish jazz comparable to that of Bengt Hallberg in the 1950s. He played frequently with Domnérus. Their work together on the Domnérus quartet CD Dompan! Is among the highlights of both mens’ discographies. From his home in Malmö, Lundgren sent this message to Rifftides:
Having worked with some great musicians through the years, there is still nobody who had such an enormous emotional effect on me as Arne. The secret was in his sound and in his way of nuancing each tone. He was a jazz musician who reached a whole nation, including people who wouldn´t normally listen to jazz. He was loved by the audiences.
Anyone with an interest in jazz should take a listen to “The Midnight Sun Never Sets,” recorded in the 50s with Quincy Jones leading the Swedish Radio Big Band — a classic. Arne was one of the world´s finest interpreters of the Great American Song Book, but not only that, he was also one of the pioneers in playing music of Swedish origin, popular songs and folk music, in a jazz context. Arne Domnérus was one of the great ones and will be missed by thousands of fans.
“The Midnight Sun Never Sets” is available here as an MP3 download. That piece and many others with Domnérus are included in volume 8 of Svensk Jazzhistoria: Swedish Jazz 1956-1959.
In 1950 in a concert in Malmö, Domnérus shared a rhythm section and trumpeter Rolf Ericson with Charlie Parker–although the two saxophonists performed in separate sets. The concert was recorded and recently released in this CD.
Dick Bank says
I had the privilege of producing the album called “Dompan!” with Arne Domnérus here in Los Angeles in September, 2000. Twice before, he was scheduled to come, but a health problem and a family bereavement forced him to cancel. We have an expression, “The third time is a charm,” and so, in the company of Jan Lundgren, he finally arrived.
The man was was in his seventy-sixth year, but in the studio he was nearly perfect I don’t recall him playing a wrong note. If he did something over, it was only because he felt he could do still better. I was honored and flattered when he returned to Sweden and stated publicly that it was his “finest hour in the recording studio,” stretching back to the 1940s.
He was a special man, a special player and it was not only his countrymen who loved him.
His like will never be seen again.
Rest in peace, dear friend.
Ted O'Reilly says
That’s one of my favourite recordings, Dick. Thanks for making it happen. And thanks to Doug for acknowledging Domnerus…one of the great jazz players, and shamefully ignored on this side of the Atlantic.