- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Though Monica Zetterlund remains a rather obscure figure in the United States, in her native Sweden she is regarded as the First Lady of Swedish jazz, and anyone who listens to this marvelous 1964 pairing with the Bill Evans Trio, including Chuck Israels on bass and Larry Bunker on drums, will agree that the title bestowed upon her is no exaggeration. Born in the small town of Halfors in 1937, Zetterlund was soon attracted to the sounds of the American jazz and pop that she heard on the radio and in the 1950s began to sing with some of the most reputable Scandinavian jazz musicians, including the great Arne Domnérus. Throughout her career she would work with the cream of the crop of Scandinavian jazzmen, such as Domnérus, Jan Johansson, and Svend Asmussen, as well as with American luminaries like Zoot Sims, Thad Jones, and Stan Getz, to name but three.
By the time she entered the studio for this landmark date with Evans, which took place in Stockholm, Zetterlund was already a star in Sweden, her reputation cemented by her Swedish versions of American jazz and pop tunes. The most successful of these was "Sakta Vi Gå Genom Stan," a lovely Swedish adaptation of Roy Turk and Fred Ahlert's "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," a Tin Pan Alley evergreen written in 1930. The lyrics to Zetterlund's version sing the praises of the city of Stockholm, and the song became so popular and so closely linked with the capital city of Sweden that many Scandinavian listeners probably have forgotten than it's actually an American song recorded, among others, by Annette Hanshaw, Nat King Cole, and Johnnie Ray, well before Zetterlund got her vocal cords on it. Such was Zetterlund's popularity that she was chosen to represent Sweden in the 1963 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, where she sang the beautiful ballad "En Gång i Stockholm," which unfortunately didn't make much of an impression, but mostly because jazz-tinged ballads traditionally haven't gained public favor at such a commercial contest. From the 1960s on, Zetterlund also dabbled in acting, both on television and on the big screen, her best performance being in the 1971 film 'The Emigrants,' by Jan Troell.
Anyone interested in delving into Zetterlund's recorded legacy should begin by listening to 'Waltz for Debby,' her outstanding collaboration with Evans. The pianist creates a melancholy, dreamy mood throughout the whole album, which definitely suits Zetterlund's soft, evocative voice. Most of the songs are taken at a very slow tempo, and the track list mixes tried-and-true standards ("Come Rain or Come Shine," "Once Upon a Summertime," "Some Other Time," "It Could Happen to You") with lesser-known choices ("So Long Big Time," "Lucky to Be Me"). Also, Zetterlund is given the chance to sing two traditional Swedish folk tunes of incomparable beauty ("Jag Vet En Dejlig Rosa" and "Vindarna Sucka Uti Skogarna") and a haunting composition by Olle Adolphson ("Om Natten") that serves as a fitting closing track. Yet the real gem of the album is "Monicas Vals," a Swedish adaptation of Evans's popular "Waltz for Debby" that rivals performances of the song by the likes of Tony Bennett (also with Evans on piano) and Johnny Hartman. The edition to which this review refers is a 2001 reissue from Universal (although there's another one from Verve that was released in 2006) and it includes the original album liner notes in Swedish, as well as the full lyrics to all the songs, but it doesn't feature any outtakes from the sessions. In short, if you're willing to give Zetterlund a try—and if you like vocal jazz I urge you to—this is the album to buy. Not only is it well worth a listen (or many listens) but it'll have you looking for other great records by this unique Swedish jazz songstress.