The Jazz Scene in the 1960’s

Tradition and renewal – Jazz in Stockholm in the mid-1960’s as seen by the photographer Christer Landergren.

The mid-1960’s: a period of transition, in which jazz had one foot in popular culture – where it had been since the 1920’s - and the other in high culture. This could be seen in the opening of concert halls – hitherto only for classical music – to jazz. This was when Christer Landergren pointed his lens at Sweden’s jazz scene.

Jazz in Transition

The breakthrough for pop music – and mass media’s great interest in it – radically transformed the situation of jazz, not least economically. This had extensive consequences for those jazz musicians who had previously lived off their earnings from dance bands: young people now wanted to dance to a completely different kind of music. Record companies were also reluctant to issue jazz records, since they thought that they didn’t sell enough. This commercial decline for jazz helped its entrance into high culture. Jazz became music for listeners, higher in complexity and artistic ambitions.

Gyllene Cirkeln

The jazz club Gyllene Cirkeln (The Golden Circle) opened in 1962 in the ABF (WEA) buildingon Sveavägen in Stockholm. The idea behind Gyllene Cirkeln was to let a seated audience enjoy high-class jazz in a restaurant milieu. During the first period, which ran until 1967, a large number of concerts were staged with the foremost Swedish and international jazz musicians. Christer Landergren was almost always there to document concerts with his camera.

The range of the music was great – in the mid-1960’s the musicians who had made their debuts in the 1920’s were still active, whilst a new generation had come forth which had no regard for commercial matters. One evening, the audience could listen to jazz clearly rooted in the tradition; the next evening, the latest avant-garde music was played.

Concert Halls, Ice Halls and Museums

Konserthuset (Stockholm Concert Hall) housed the top acts, with artists for whom the Golden Circle was too small – or who were too expensive. The Stockholm Concert house also staged two blues festivals, with many artists, in 1965 and 1966. Two years in a row, in 1964 and 1965, the Stockholm Jazz Festival was staged at the Johanneshov Ice Stadium – a bizarre choice of venue, a musically a success but a logistical catastrophe. Museums, such as the Modern Museum and the History Museum in Stockholm, were also important jazz venues.

The music became increasingly international during the 1960’s. The American jazz scene had been dominant in the post-war period, but now a number of European jazz musicians emerged who could measure themselves with the Americans. Many prominent musicians came from Eastern Europe, particularly from Poland, with a sound of their own.

Lived Close to Jazz

When Christer Landergren started taking photographs for the OrkesterJournalen (OJ) periodical in 1965 this was what met him, this is what is found in his photos. Landergren wanted to be everywhere that jazz was, and he sought out the music and the musicians. He photographed some of them just once, but others - such as the members of the Danish R&B group ”Harlem Kiddies” – he learned to know well. Jazz has a reputation for being a male world, but Landergren’s photos show that the female artists were more numerous than has been claimed.

Roger Bergner,
Research Archivist Svenskt visarkiv

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