Courtesy of Franz Hoffmann — here’s an excerpt from a 1966 BBC radio documentary tracing Henry “Red” Allen’s life, music, and friends — in this case, Eddie Condon and Fats Waller. I hadn’t known that Bessie Smith came to this session . . . .
A thrill to hear the music and Allen’s easy acceptance of things — and his loving tribute to Eddie:
Beauty is a universal language. It flourishes in our hearts. So the fact that I and some JAZZ LIVES readers speak no Swedish will not impede anyone’s enjoyment of the soaring improvisations that follow. And in these videos, a patient viewer will find in the introduction to #2 all the mysteries of song #1. Trust me on this.
I had not heard of the singer Anna Pauline Andersson or her fiance, pianist Mattias Nilsson, before March 2012. But when a friend told me they were coming to the United States for the first time — with plans for a free duet recital at the Church of Sweden in New York City — I became intrigued. And when I saw their performances on YouTube, I was seriously impressed and moved. Thus, on March 28, 2012, I and my video camera were in a place not usual for us — recording wondrous music, secular and sacred, all illuminated by the same delight in beauty and in communicating that beauty to us. Anna Pauline’s voice caresses and soars; Mattias’ piano glitters and investigates.
They began the program with the melancholy Swedish folksong, EMMIGRANTVISA (VI SÅLDE VÅRAN HEMMAN), or SONG OF THE IMMIGRANTS, which describes the hard journey the Swedes had to undergo to get to New York. Jung would have been pleased that some of the cadences coming out of the collective unconscious sound like ST. JAMES INFIRMARY:
Then, Evert Taube’s 1946 song describing the ocean (a natural thematic connection), SÅ SKIMRANDE VAR ALDRIG HAVET, which Anna Pauline translated as SUCH GLITTERING SEA:
In case the English-only types in the audience were getting restless, Anna and Mattias then turned to a song to celebrate what is their first visit to New York City — the lovely 1925 Rodgers and Hart MANHATTAN, performed with a proper urban lilt and humor:
From one classic to another: STAR DUST, sung and played with great empathy, making the most familiar song new:
LILLA IDAS SOMMARVISA is a more recent Swedish song by Georg Riedel and Astrid Lindgren, from a 1973 film. Anna Pauline remade its title into THE SUMMER SONG OF IDA — its message is clear in any language:
Anna didn’t treat the next song as a hymn, but Ellington’s I’M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT could have gotten in on its title alone:
Another version of exultation, sly and whimsical — TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE:
JAG HAR BOTT VID EN LANDSVÄG, written by Alvar Kraft and Charles Henry (pseud Karl Henrik Henrud) in 1939 — a song from the south of Sweden, where, Anna Pauline tells us, “the people are happy and voluptuous”; I believe the title translates to I GREW UP NEAR A COUNTRY ROAD:
BLOTT EN DAG, the Swedish hymn, (DAY BY DAY AND WITH EACH PASSING MOMENT), by Oscar Ahnfelt and Lina Sandell (1872):
I´LL FLY AWAY, by Albert E. Brumley (1929)
and the 1913 JAG VANTAR VID MIN MILA, which translates as I’M WAITING FOR A WANDERER:
And, as an encore (after Mattias’ confession!) there’s the 1956 jazz tune UNDERBART ÄR KORT, by Povel Ramel: its title translates to THE GOOD THINGS ARE TOO SHORT, which was true of this concert:
Thanks to Anna Pauline and Mattias, to Jack Anderssen, to Laurie Whitlock, and Eva Engman. And although I don’t usually find myself in churches, this one is a beauty and everyone I encountered was more than gracious.