Returning to the topic of this album, dedicated to the memory of Svensson, we should remember the members of the band lead by Iiro Rantala. This album embodies a different arrangement, and therefore a different kind of unity. For example, pieces that follow the song format are greater in number in the album. John Lennon’s famous “Imagine” and the Rantala composition we have talked about, “Tears For Esbjörn”, are two of the nine pieces in the album. The other seven pieces include Svensson’s other projects, and a selection and interpretation of one piece each from his two duo albums. For example, the song “Waltz For The Lonely Ones” from “Close” album Svensson recorded with Lina Nyberg in his youth, released in the exact year when he formed EST. The famous Scandinavian singer Viktoria Tolstoy is one of the guest musicians of this dedication album. Another example to the songs in the album is “Shining On You” from the album with the same name that Svensson undertook all responsibilities and wrote for Tolstoy. It is evident that only a few pieces were selected from EST’s albums. This is most likely because of the guest musicians and especially Rantala’s preference. What should be emphasized is that this album revolved around Svensson’s musical accumulation instead of EST’s. The band aim to add new dimensions to Svensson’s pieces through their own style and musical tendencies.
This team looks like a Rantala group with the exception of Tolstoy. This is because of the fact that the bassist Lars Danielsson and drummer Morten Lund sometimes play with Rantala’s group. These two musicians recorded with Rantala for the pianist’s second solo album “My History Of Jazz”. When we add Viktoria Tolstoy to this team, the result is the sound and the soul of Act Company. The album is produced by Siggi Loch, who owns ACT.
Rantala, who is the brains of this album, was known as the creator of an important Scandinavian jazz band, Trio Töykeat, which lasted for 12 years until 2006. He was one of the most interesting pianists in this jazz circle with his unique style and technique. Rantala, who has told that he has met Svensson in 2000 when he came to watch his group play, is a pianist who has been greatly influenced by Svensson’s style. However, he transformed this inclination to a new identity in a short period. He has build lasting bridges between jazz and Scandinavian folk music, and his music put him along the globally-acclaimed pianists. Svensson’s influence can be heard in his style which embody both the energetic aspect and the romantic style in the very same composition. The sadness and satire in this mysterious atmosphere created by this state of mind is imprinted onto the pianist’s playing style. He is the main contributor to the fact that this album in our hands is an entirely different construct. Rantala shows off his technical talents and his almost perfect piano style in this album. This beloved jazz musician wandered in the vast planes of his jazz adventure with his third album, “Anyone With A Heart”—a strings album with violin and cello—that carry influences from classical music. “My Working Class Hero”, released last year, was almost like an album dedicated to John Lennon. The pianist was aiming to contribute new meanings to many songs by The Beatles. It is evident how this path we mentioned, intersects with Svensson’s. The album, which also points out to an emotional-political attitude, carried us to the popular sensitivities of almost half a century ago.
Viktoria Tolstoy, who contributed to this album with her vocals for four pieces, is the guest with the closest friendship to Svensson. Tolstoy was one of the two backing vocalists for EST during her youth. However, this musical relationship developed so deeply that Svensson did the whole infrastructure and wrote the pieces for the singer’s third album which made her famous, “White Russian”ın (1997). The singer became a famous voice after this album through her solecistic technique and her interpretation style which emphasizes intuition. She released “Shining On You” (2004) with Svensson. Tolstoy brought Svensson’s ever-changing musical vision to light with her moody songs. Her albums, embellished with the feelings of pain and humor, brought the singer to fame, especially in European jazz circles. Tolstoy’s interpretations in these works reflect parts of Svensson’s soul and attitude. Especially her ability of interpretation of Lennon’s “Imagine” enchanted the concert audience. We should remember her role in this album in order to discover the complexity of her voice once again.
Lars Danielsson is one of the most important jazz bass players of our day. It is hard to make an introduction for him here. However, listing a few of the legendary musicians he has performed and recorded with will be enough to establish the caliber of the musician. Dave Liebman, John Scofield, Jack de Johnette, Mike Stern and Billy Hart are a few of the names that I can think of. Danielsson, who is an ACT musician, has almost twenty solo and group albums with this company. This important musician is in the rhythm section in the team of this memorial album for Svensson. Danielsson is the heartbeat of the pieces with his melodic style, and brings a fresh perspective to Svensson’s compositions. He takes the pieces to a different direction with his experience and nuances in his style. The fact that Rantala and drummer Morton Lund are his current comrades plays a big role in this. Speaking of Morton, he is another important name in international jazz circles. He has played with many talented artists and a doyen of Scandinavian jazz. The telepathic bridge he builds with Svensson’s music bring a whole new level of rhythm to the pieces. We don’t know how and if these two musicians were close to Svensson but it is evident that they bring a new taste of rhythm to the album, basing on the ACT sound.
The last guest of “Lost Heroes” album is Ulf Wakenius who, like Svensson, is an important Swedish jazz musician. He has worked with many masters of jazz like Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown. The guitarist, who has released his first album in 1985, has been working with ACT for more than 10 years. He is one of the most passionate musicians when it comes to Svensson’s music, even though Wakenius is Svensson’s senior. His admiration is so deep that he not only named one of his albums “Love Is Real”, a famous Svensson composition which is also featured in this album, but also dedicated the whole work to Svensson’s compositions. It was inevitable that this talented musician, who has interpreted many works of Svensson in his own style, would be a part of this project. The listener feels that Wakenius has put in as much effort to the pieces as Rantala. Let alone the using the guitar as a solo instrument in Svensson’s compositions; Wakenius’s emotional and sincere playing style permeates into these compositions. The guitarist contributes a new taste and emotional depth for the pieces included in this album. One remembers to listen to Wakenius closely in the album and the special importance of “Love Is Real”.
A lot of critics claim that Svensson is one of the most important heralds of the jazz of the future. They talk about how his music is sort of a fantastic music. He is a pioneer in jazz history with the innovations he brought to the genre without steering too far away from the roots and essence of traditional jazz. Ultimately this is one of the important reasons why different music circles have fondness for this jazz sound. The pianist has been called a “pop star” of jazz for this very reason…
(Part III is coming soon!)