First Walk

COMPOSERS: Lars Gullin
LABELS: Dragon
PERFORMER: Lars Gullin (bs, bclt), Rolf Ericson (t), Åke Persson (tb), Bengt Hallberg (p), Gunnar Almstedt (b), Jack Norén (d), etc
CATALOGUE NO: DRCD 380 (distr. Discovery) ADD mono


First Walk is the fifth volume documenting Lars Gullin’s career on record. A player of enormous significance in European jazz, Gullin (1928-76) had mastered the technical, rhythmical and harmonic challenges of bebop by the early Fifties, becoming the first European to win a jazz poll in the USA when he topped the 1954 Downbeat poll as ‘New Star’ on baritone saxophone.

This album is devoted to Gullin’s early years (1951-2), and in so doing documents the remarkably advanced Swedish jazz scene of the period featuring musicians such as trumpeter Rolf Ericson (who would later join Duke Ellington’s Orchestra) and pianist Bengt Hallberg (who would record with Stan Getz, Clifford Brown and Quincy Jones).


But of course it is Gullin’s burgeoning talent that takes centre stage; his fluid, lucid lines on standards such as ‘Laura’, ‘Dancing in the Dark’ and ‘Mean to Me’ show his mastery of the American jazz dialect, while his own compositions (he was an accomplished pianist and arranger as well as a composer) incorporate elements of Swedish folk melody that revealed how jazz could be expressive of local culture and identity, so providing a major alternative to its American paradigm. Stuart Nicholson