One would like to live in Jan Lundgren’s jazz house. The Swedish pianist is a universal sound architect who combines tradition and modernity. His understanding of jazz fuses American architecture with European style. Lundgren playfully combines the best of both worlds, creating a multi-layered building with fascinatingly designed rooms, cosy corners, clear design, nostalgic memorabilia and a loft with room for improvisation. Change and renewal without forgetting the past has determined Lundgren’s work from the very beginning. The “Potsdamer Platz” is therefore a fitting image and a sounding business card for this jazz concept.
He is “a man who can do just about anything,” the dpa recently wrote about Jan Lundgren. His roots in the American jazz piano tradition, which brought him together with traditional jazz musicians like Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton, is his origins. The tonal language of his Scandinavian homeland pervades his playing, as does (classically well-trained) Western art music. Swing, Nordic vemod and impressionistic esprit stand side by side with Lundgren as a matter of course.
The transfer of European musical traditions into classical jazz can be experienced in the most diverse forms with Lundgren: With “The Ystad Concert” he follows in the footsteps of Swedish jazz icon Jan Johansson and leaves new footprints. His “European Standards” show that jazz has long since migrated from the USA and become a young cultural asset of the Old World. And with the Sarden Paolo Fresu and the Frenchman Richard Galliano, Lundgren traces the sound of Europe with the Mare Nostrum project.
With “Potsdamer Platz”, Lundgren is now consistently following his path: every piece, right up to the last, was written by him. He lets his personal sounds swarm out and be taken up by a dream cast, this time a quartet, thinking anew and enriching it stylistically. “That’s what it was all about for me,” says Lundgren, “to interactively make my pieces into something new together with these musicians, my favourites. I liked to make concept albums, but here the concept came about of its own accord afterwards, so to speak.”
These favourites are, on the melodic side, the great Finnish alto saxophonist Jukka Perko, and in the rhythm section, for one Morten Lund on drums, who last played with Lars Danielsson and Marius Neset, but was already in Jan Lundgren’s trio in 2000.
Another fellow countryman and old acquaintance is bassist Dan Berglund, although Lundgren has never played with the former Esbjörn Svensson Trio member, who was a good and exclusive member. “I had this line-up in my head for a long time. Four years ago we met at the festival in Milan and agreed on the project,” Lundgren remembers. As is often the case, it took a while before it was realized, but in this case it was worth the wait: quartets with such fantastic harmony are rare.
Even in the beginning, the four were joined at the hip: the title piece “Potsdamer Platz” is bursting with joy of playing and positive energy. Ballad No. 9 then reflects the other end of the album’s emotional spectrum. With its beautiful melody it shows what a sensitive songwriter Lundgren is. “Lycklig Resa”, the Swedish classic, which starts lyrically but quickly develops an incorruptible groove sounds “Sophisticated”, as the Americans call this extremely cultivated way of making music. With “Twelve Tone Rag” it becomes virtuoso and tricky: the supporting melody is actually built on a twelve-tone scale and inserted into a rapid bebop frame. Whether it continues melancholically romantic (“On The Banks Of The Seine”) or feverishly funky (“Bullet Train”), whether Eastern European music is transformed into folk jazz (“Dance Of Masja”) or attitude is shown (“Song For Jörgen”, a tribute to Lundgren’s former, early deceased university teacher Jörgen Nilsson, a key figure of Southern Swedish jazz) – the nonchalance and lightness that pervades this album always inspires.
But nobody can accuse Lundgren, his companions or the album of not taking any risks. Everyone bravely throws themselves into the waters, tries things out, risks everything, but without ever becoming “difficult”. With these masters, it simply fits as if by magic, just as elegantly as the album came to its title. “I didn’t have a name for this piece or for the album. We recorded in the Hansa-Studios right at Potsdamer Platz, and when I woke up one day in the hotel, I suddenly had it: ‘Potsdamer Platz’ fitted perfectly to this metropolitan hopping theme, to the march-like funk, to this not exactly ‘beautiful’ demonstration of power. If Potsdamer Platz stands for the new Germany in a certain way, as a title here it also stands for something positive, for the positive power that music should always radiate for me; for a new beginning, for something moving.” In fact, according to the feeling of the four musicians, something belonging together has grown together within Lundgren’s quartet.