Arne Domnerus


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The list of veterans of the glory days of modern jazz in Sweden grew significantly shorter on Tuesday with the death of Arne Domnerus 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 Domnerus'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, Domnerus 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 Domnerus. 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 Domnrus. Their work together on the Domnerus quartet CD Dompan! Is among the highlights of both mens' discographies. From his home in Malm, 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 worlds 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 Domnerus 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 Domnerus are included in volume 8 of Svensk Jazzhistoria: Swedish Jazz 1956-1959.

In 1950 in a concert in Malm, Domnerus 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.

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
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