Interview: Nils Lindberg


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Yesterday I posted on composer, arranger and pianist Nils Lindberg's 1963 album Trisection, a superb but almost unknown orchestral jazz recording. I also provided a bit of background on Sweden's 100-year love affair with jazz. Today, a conversation with Nils on Sax Appeal (1960) and Trisection (1963)—two of his early jazz albums recorded in Stockholm:

JazzWax: What was your major influence when writing and arranging Sax Appeal?

Nils Lindberg: The songs I wrote for Sax Appeal were inspired by the feeling in Swedish folk tunes. For example, the tune Curbits was built on the chords of just such a song. My arrangements, however, were inspired by Woody Herman´s recording of Four Brothers. I liked the records made by Herman´s Third Herd very much.

JW: Did you listen to jazz radio in Sweden when you were young?

NL: Oh, yes. I first heard American jazz after 1945 when the American Forces Radio started broadcasting from Germany. Many Swedish jazz musicians also listened to the network. During World War  II, no U.S. jazz records had reached Sweden, so when the war was over we were very grateful and excited to listen on the radio and buy and listen to American jazz records. 

JW: Which American records and arrangers most influenced you leading up to Trisection?

NL: Gil Evans and his [Birth of the Cool] recordings with Miles Davis.

JW: Where did you write the music for Trisection?

NL: After working very hard as a pianist in dance bands in Stockholm, I went up north in 1961 to Dalarna, Sweden, where my parents' home is location and where I was brought up. Dalarna has a beautiful landscape and a strong folklore tradition. I composed the music there during the summer of that year.

JW: Did you have a strong sense of what you wanted to write?

NL: I had no vision whatsoever of what Trisection should be or sound like. I just wrote this suite as I felt it. Of course, the traditional fiddlers in Dalarna and my interest in jazz were strong inspirations.

JW: Given your exceptional command of the jazz orchestra, why did you not travel to the U.S. to work, the way musicians like Lalo Schifrin and Michel Legrand did, in the movies and TV?

NL: I had a family and three sons, so I had to work here in Sweden. I also had no opportunity to go to the U.S. No one asked. Through vocalist Alice Babs, Duke Ellington had listened to my music and asked me to write for his band. He also recorded my Far Away Star with Alice Babs.  [Pictured above: Dalarna, Sweden]

JW: Duke Ellington toured Scandinavia quite a bit.

NL: During Duke´s Scandinavian tour in 1973, I played piano on all concerts with his band. After the tour he asked me to work with him in U.S. But he died some months after his offer, so who knows what might have happened. Since then, I have played many concerts in U.S., mainly on colleges and universities.

JazzWax tracks: As mentioned yesterday, you'll find three Nils Lindberg albums—Sax Appeal, Trisection and Symphony #1 and Jazz From Studio A—on a single download called Nils Lindberg: Essential Swedish Jazz Masters . You'll just have to rearrange the tracks a bit, as outlined in yesterday's post.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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