This year’s edition of the internationally renowned JazzBaltica Festival from June 20th – 23rd in the north of Germany under the artistic direction of Nils Landgren marks a very special anniversary: 25 years ago, music producer and ACT-founder Siggi Loch discovered the Swedish trombonist and singer at the festival. It was the beginning of an unparalleled success story in European and Swedish jazz.
Siggi Loch recollects: “I originally visited JazzBaltica in 1994 to see Vince Mendoza, who, upon the invitation of Rainer Haarmann, the father of JazzBaltica, led the exclusive festival ensemble. However, on June 12th, i experienced a young trombonist and singer from Sweden, who instantly wowed me by his performance and stage personality. Until then, I myself and probably many others could hardly have imagined that funk music, this originally black American art form, could also have a (new) home in Scandinavia. But Nils Landgren and his “Unit“ with special guest Maceo Parker strikingly proved the opposite. The encounter with Nils Landgren should become the beginning of my re-discovery of Sweden as a personal place of longing: Already 30 years ago, on my first visit to the country, i discovered two albums that built remarkable bridges between jazz and Swedish music and jazz: “Jazz på svenska“ by pianist Jan Johansson and the epochal recording “Old Swedish Folk in Modern“ by Bengt-Arne Wallin, which I soon after released in Germany in my position as label manager of Phillips.
The encounter of Siggi Loch with Nils Landgren in 1994 became a key event in the history of the, at that time, young label ACT and marked the beginning of an extraordinary collaboration with Sweden and Swedish artists. Nils Landgren became the first exclusive ACT artist and in November 1994, the first album “Live in Stockholm“ by the, now re-named “Nils Landgren Funk Unit“ was released, followed by the first studio recording “Paint it Blue“ a year later. On the keyboards: the young Esbjörn Svensson who, soon after with e.s.t. should become the most important European jazz phenomenon of the noughties.
As a result, for ACT the JazzBaltica festival became the most important place of discovery, bringing forth many Swedish artists such as Viktoria Tolstoy, Lars Danielsson, Rigmor Gustafsson, Ulf Wakenius, Jan Lundgren, and more baltic musicians like Bugge Wesseltoft, Leszek Możdżer or Cæcilie Norby. And ACT became the “home of Swedish Jazz“ – with 116 albums by Swedish artists in 25 years – more than 20 percent of the label’s output. In September 2008 it was planned to celebrate this very special relationship with the German-Swedish Friendship” festival at “Schloss Elmau“. But the tragic death of Esbjörn Svensson on June 14th, 2008 overshadowed the planned event turning it into an occasion of remembrance of one of the greatest artists of European jazz which was documented on the album “Magic Momemts at Schloss Elmau: Best Of Swedish-German Friendship Concerts“.
On October 20th, 2009, Siggi Loch received first-class knighthood of the Swedish Royal Order of the Polar Star from S.M. King Gustav of Sweden for his earnings among Swedish culture. With Nils Landgren he shares a 25 year-long, close friendship, over 30 albums featuring him as a leader, and many more as a producer and musical guest. And jazz has further developed from a purely American art form to a musical language which is spoken and understood all over the world and thorugh which musicians communicate and exchange their very own musical and cultural roots and backgrounds.
On June 13, 2019, Nils Landgren received the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany) from the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. This award is in recognition of Landgren’s major contribution to the German music scene. Read all about this topic here...
ACT: Home of Swedish jazz since 1992
144 Swedish artists have recorded for ACT
Bonfiglioli Weber String Quartet
Esbjörn Svensson Trio
Gillblad, Per Olof
Ikiz, Robert Mehmet
Johansson, Per Texas
Norrbotten Big Band
Price, Magnum Coltrane
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Stockholm Session Strings
Swedish Radio Choir