Monday, May 30, 2016

New Releases: Mattias Nilsson's Dreams of Belonging

Mattias Nilsson (Photo: Anja Emzén)
Born in Karlskrona, Sweden, in 1980, pianist Mattias Nilsson turned down the offer of a place at Malmö Academy of Music, to his parents' dismay, in order to follow a career as a professional jazz musician. In a recent interview with the website Friends of Jan Lundgren, Nilsson briefly explains his reasons: "My argument was that things were already looking as though they might work out, and I didn't want to halt my progress by taking four years off to study. I think it was Branford Marsalis who said 'If you've got something to fall back on, you probably will.'" This career-defining decision took place over a decade ago, and all these years later, time has proven Nilsson right: he's one of a select group of full-time jazz musicians in Scandinavia who don't need a second occupation to support themselves, has received several of Sweden's most prestigious awards and scholarships, and has done his fair share of touring throughout Europe and even as far afield as South America. What's more, Nilsson just released his first album as a leader—Dreams of Belonging. Cut precisely in Malmö over the course of two sessions on January 8 and 9, 2016, this is a solo effort partly inscribed within the long-standing Nordic tradition of blending jazz and folk music that goes back to the great Jan Johansson in the 1960s.

In fact, the opening track, "Folk Melody from Västmanland" (incidentally, the Swedish national anthem, also known as "Du Gamla, Du Fria"), is a beautiful traditional tune played with delicacy by Nilsson, who approaches "Serenade" and the title track, "Dreams of Belonging" in the same wistful, introspective sort of way. The latter is one of the three Nilsson originals on the album; the other two are "Hymn to Love" and "Spirea," two very personal pieces taken at a slow pace that are good examples of Nilsson's talent as a composer of semi-classical jazz. "At Frösö Church" is an equally relaxed take on "Vid Frösö Kyrka," a melody by the noted Swedish composer Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, and "Södermalm" comes from the pen of another important 20th-century composer, Thore Swanerud. Nilsson looks back even further on the album closer, "Day by Day," an old hymn originally titled "Blott en Dag" and written by the revered 19th-century songwriter Oscar Ahnfelt. Though the influence of Johansson and his epoch-making LP Jazz på Svenska is undeniable, in his interview with the Jan Lundgren fan club website, Nilsson says that he's tried to put his own personal stamp on the music: "The album centers around the kind of traditional Swedish music I've always been drawn to, and although I use plenty of jazz techniques, I hope I've been able to find my own 'voice' in the material." This he definitely does achieve on his version of John Hartford's country tune "Gentle on My Mind" (a major hit for both Glen Campbell and Dean Martin in the '60s, but hardly a common choice for jazz recordings), possibly the most light-hearted track on the album, and generally throughout the whole CD. Overall, this is a very satisfying solo piano effort that is well worth playing more than once, since it gets better and better with each listen.

1 comment:

Jim Eigo said...

Hello Anton,

We are preparing a promo mailing for one of our clients and would like to include you.

Please advise your current mailing address and affiliations.

Thank you for your cooperation. We look forward to receiving your reply.


Jim Eigo
Jazz Promo Services
272 State Route 94 South #1
Warwick, NY 10990-3363
Ph: 845-986-1677 / Fax: 845-986-1699
Cell / text: 917-755-8960
Skype: jazzpromo
"Specializing in Media Campaigns for the music community, artists, labels, venues and events.”