Nordic Swing: New Scandinavian Jazz
by Jason Gubbels | June 14, 2013
Maybe there's a special quality to the air above the 55th Parallel, or perhaps long winter nights encourage the cultivation of talent. But Scandinavia has always stood out even among notable European scenes in applying lessons learned from stateside masters. It's not just the swing of Svend Asmussen or the delightful vocal swoops of Alice Babs. American avant-garde types like Albert Ayler were early boosters of the talents afforded by such now-legendary players as Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (aka, The Great Dane with the Never-Ending Name), while Jan Garbarek and Bobo Stenson became 1970s ambassadors of a new "world jazz" championed by Euro jazz label ECM.
Still, there's been an explosion in the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish jazz scene over the past decade, from unapologetically experimental (the indefatigable Mats Gustafsson), soul-jazz throwbacks (The Five Corners Quintet), Bill Evans disciples (Jacob Anderskov), and those splitting the difference between all forms of post-1950s jazz (jack-of-all-trades bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten). There's also a notable Scandinavian trend of incorporating the rhythms of electronica into jazz form, pioneered by Miles Davis-influenced trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær and guitarist Eivind Aarset, and carried forward by such fusion groups as Koop, Nuspirit Helsinki and prog-metal unclassifiables Shining. There's even a summation of all these disparate strands in Mats Gustafsson's recent collaboration with Danish-born pop/hip-hop singer Neneh Cherry (2012's The Cherry Thing).