Nils Landgren


With his smoking, hard-hitting “Funk Unit”, the man with the Red Horn has been responsible for a bunch of successful CDs over the past years. His concerts from Stockholm to Beijing have been met with ecstatic acclamation. In duo with pianist Esbjörn Svensson, he has elevated Swedish folk music to the level of subdued works of art. As the artistic director of the 2001 Berlin Jazz Festival, designed a state of the art presentation of Scandinavian trends and moods.

In May 2002 Nils was honored with the Tore Ehrling-prize by the Swedish Society Of Popular Composers for “His outstanding contribution to spread swedish jazz music around the globe”. He is a world-class soloist and artist with heart and soul: Nils Landgren.

Jazz and church music shaped his childhood. As cornetist, Nils Landgren’s father brought US jazz into the house. The traditional Swedish chorales and songs came from his grandfather, who was a preacher. Nils Landgren was born in 1956. He began playing drums at the age of six. At 13 he layed his hands and lips on the trombone and was hooked for life.
Between 1972 and 1978 Nils studied classical trombone at the music college in Karlstad with David Maytan and at the university in Arvika with Ingemar Roos. During this time he also met the legendary Swedish Folk-Jazz pioneer Bengt-Arne Wallin and the fantastic tromboneplayer and proffessor of the Graz Conservatory in Austria, Eje Thelin. These two men completely changed the way for Nils to go; from a strict classical player to an improviser with his own idea of what to play and why.

After his graduation Nils moved to Stockholm to work as a professional tromboneplayer. First the life of a struggling jazz musician, making no money but gaining loads of experience.

Then the call that totally changed his life: an offer to go on tour with Sweden’s most successful pop star of that time Björn Skifs who at that time was at first in the US pop charts with Hooked on a feeling. The money was ok, the vibes were cool and the band was simply great! Ever since that time Nils Landgren has been involved in a variety of music styles and projects. These include jazz, rock, soul, hip hop, big band’s, studio sessions, and by his own reckoning, at least 500 albums. Mostly, for natural reasons with Swedish artists but also with such internationals stars as ABBA, The Crusaders, Eddie Harris, Bernard Pretty Purdie and Herbie Hancock.

Nils even plays on the first Wyclef Jean solo album, titled Carnival. In 1981 Thad Jones invited the Swede into his new Bigband project Ball of Fire, to take the lead-trombone chair. The band was built up around such great musicians as Jerome Richardson, Jerry Dodgion, Tim Hagans, Bobby Burgess, Roger Kellaway, Sahib Shihab, Dusko Goykovich, and Benny. “A fantastic band, sad that it did not work out in the end”, Nils says about that expreience.

Two years later Nils debut album Planet Rock was released, followed by Streetfighter in 1984, You are my Nr 1 in 1985, Miles from Duke with Bengt-Arne Wallin in 1987, Chapter Two 1, in 1987, Chapter Two 2 and Follow your heart in 1989. Between 1985 and 1987 Nils also performed as actor, singer, trombonist, and dancer in over 360 performances of the Swedish “play of the year”, SKÅL, as well as appearing in several TV-films as an actor. 1992 saw the first performances and recording of the Nils Landgren Unit; the recording was called Red Horn, and was mixed by the legendary sound engineer Bruce Swedien. (re-release 2001 as “The First Unit”, ACT 9292-2). That same summer the band performed at the Playboy Jazzfestival in Los Angeles, hosted by the great Bill Cosby. The final breakthrough outside of Scandinavia came first in 1994: it was at the Jazz Baltica Festival in Germany that the Unit became the Funk Unit. The album Live in Stockholm (ACT 9223-2) with guest star Maceo Parker was released that year and was the foundation for the collaboration with Siegfried Loch and his young ACT label.


Funk For Life

Label: ACT
Distribution in France: Harmonia Mundi
Release date: February 22, 2010

Nils Landgren - Funk For Life


Label: ACT
Release date: November 27, 2008

Friendship has often been the basis for great collaborations in music. It was also something very special for “Mr. Red Horn”, trombonist Nils Landgren, when two years ago he fulfilled a long-cherished wish by celebrating Christmas With My Friends (ACT 9454-2).

For many trombonists, Christmas music, which is often played by brass choirs, is delightful to play. In this case Landgren brought to the table not only all the Christmas songs he had come across during his 30 years of professional playing; he brought together all the experiences he has absorbed playing funk, jazzy pop, subtly fragile ballades, along with his work studying church music and Swedish folklore. Above all else he was able to celebrate a musical festival with many of his long-time friends and fellow musical travellers.

The critics celebrated the album as “the year’s most beautiful Christmas CD”, “a soulful heavenly journey”, and it went Gold in both Sweden and Germany. However, for Landgren it wasn’t the first CD’s overwhelming success that prompted him to bring out a new one: ”’Why another Christmas album?’ you may ask. I did ask myself the same question many times before it became clear to me that, with all the joy I experienced while making the first one and the warmth that embraced us while presenting it to our audiences on tour, it simply had to be a second one. I just felt that my journey through winter wonderland would not be complete without it.”

Five of the twelve friends who accompanied Nils Landgren two years ago are with him again on Christmas With My Friends II (ACT 9476-29): the classic singer Jeanette Köhn, the versatile vocalist Sharon Dyall, jazz singer and pianist Ida Sand, and The Norrland Duo of Sweden’s most talented acoustic guitarist Johan Norberg and Jonas Knutsson, a saxophonist especially known for his lyrical style. Knutsson’s decidedly stronger presence on the new album provides for a subtle change in the basic sound. New to the mix are the standout Berlin bassist Eva Kruse (from the trio [em]) and the young singer Jessica Pilnäs, a wonderful new power from Sweden’s seemingly inexhaustible treasure trove of female vocalists. Her impressive vocal duet with Nils Landgren on “A Child Is Born” displays a soul-drenched voice that simply melts the heart.

This unique journey is comprised of 15 songs as the participating musicians, brimming with enthusiasm and friendly give-and-take, travel across the many countries and centuries of an unexpectedly multi-faceted world of Christmas music. This world includes Swedish traditionals (“Jul, Jul, Strålande Jul”), Scandinavian versions of European carols (“Det Är En Ros Utsprungen”), classic church music (“Psalm 130, Himmel”), instrumentals such as Johan Norberg’s composition “Kristallen”, on through to Christmas evergreens from the motherland of jazz (such as “Peace On Earth”). As if shining through a prism, the various personalities and souls of the musicians are reflected through the music; with this glowingly peaceful album they have conveyed the essence of the Christmas message, a message with meaning for all faiths and persuasions: Christmas as a musical festival of peace, love – and friendship.


Licence To Funk

Label: ACT - ACT 9455-2
Distribution in France: Harmonia Mundi
Release date: September 13, 2007

As we could rightly expect, Nils Landgren has found a universal and very contemporary vibe for this groove-based idiom. This may be due to subtle changes to the fabric of his winning Funk Unit team of Magnum Coltrane Price and German top drummer Wolfgang Haffner. New additions are keyboarder/singer Ida Sand, a new discovery from Sweden who just released her ACT debut Meet Me Around Midnight (ACT 9716-2) and flutist/saxophonist Magnus Lindgren (among other endeavours, he wrote the music for the 2003 Nobel Prize ceremony!).

Landgren was able to snag one of Detroit funk’s true legends for his new project: guitarist Ray Parker Jr. The composer of the million selling “Ghostbusters” had collaborated with Landgren on the Swede’s Creole Love Call album (ACT 9707-2) with Joe Sample. All the musicians are featured as composers on Licence To Funk.

Fred Wesley’s “House Party”, the ecstatic opener sets the pace for what follows: A celebration of funk as a collective experience. Each of the twelve tracks shows up a different aspect of the genre: The relaxed elegance of Landgren’s own “Capetown Shuffle” contrasts with the exhilarating verve of the Ashford/Simpson classic “Stuff Like That”. Lush gospel harmonies characterize the vocal sections of Magnum Coltrane Price’s brisk “freak U”. Soulful solos by the two horn players crown Wolfgang Haffner’s laid-back “Slowfoot”, vocalist Ida Sand charges her composition “Secret” with lascivious blues feeling, while Landgren’s understated vocals bring a cool lounge vibe to “24Hours”. The explosive riffs on “SampleRayT” conjure up the spirit of the Crusaders’ heyday as does the power play of the whole band on “Brazos River Breakdown” an original by Crusaders-saxophonist Wilton Felder.

Nils Landgren - Licence To Funk