Oslo Jazz Circle Presents Portrait of a Norwegian Jazz Artist
Gemini Records  GMO 95012/13

Bjarne Nerem in Sweden, Big Band Sessions

1.         STAND BY (Harry Arnold)  0'46

            October 18, 1956. Arrangement by Harry Arnold.


2.         CRAZY RHYTHM (Caesar, Meyer, Kahn) 2'18

            October 4, 1956. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Solos: BN ts, Carl-Henrik Norin ts


3.         OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY (Gershwin,   Gershwin) 2'15

            October 3, 1956. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Solo: BN ts


4.         CHEROKEE (Noble)  3'46

            October 18, 1956. Arrangement by Gösta Theselius. Solos: BN ts, Arne Domnérus as,             Gunnar Svensson p


5.         BACK IN YOUR OWN BACK YARD (Jolson, Rose, Dreyer) 2'50

October 27,1956. Arrangement by Stig             Gabrielsson. Solos: Arne Domnérus cl, BN ts,   Gunnar Svensson p, Bengt Högberg elg


6.         AT SUNDOWN (Donaldson) 2'49

            October 27, 1956. Arrangement by Staffan       Åkerberg. Solos: BN ts, Åke Persson tb,          Benny Bailey tp


7.         THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC (Arlen, Mercer) 3'23

            November 24, 1956. Arrangement by Gösta Theselius. Solo: BN ts


8.         LAURA (Raksin, Mercer)  4'37

            December 12, 1956. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Solo: BN ts


9.         CRAZY RHYTHM (Caesar, Meyer, Kahn) 2'25

            February 2, 1957. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Solos: BN, Carl-Henrik Norin ts


10.       OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY (Gershwin, Gershwin) 2'14

            February 2, 1957. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Solo: BN ts


11.       FLYING HOME (Goodman, Hampton)  8'45

            December 27, 1957. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Solos: Rolf Berg elg, Åke

Persson tb, Johnny Ekh bars, Weine Renliden tp, Bengt-Arne Wallin tp, Sixten Eriksson tp, Arnold Johansson tp, BN ts, Egil Johansen dr


12.       ROSETTA (Hines, Woode)  5'17

            March 9, 1958. Small group with Arnold Johansson tp, Arne Domnérus cl, Åke                        Persson tb, Bengt Hallberg p,  BN ts, Rolf Berg g, Simon Brehm b, Egil Johansen dr


13.       MARGIE (Conrad, Robinson)  3'40

            March 9, 1958. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Solos: Bengt Hallberg p, Rolf

            Berg g, Arne Domnérus cl, BN ts, Egil Johansen dr


14.       CHEROKEE (Noble) 3'37

            March 19, 1958. Arrangement by Gösta Theselius. Solos: BN ts, Rolf Bäckman as,      Bengt Hallberg p, Egil Johansen dr.


15.       CHEROKEE (Noble) 3'20

            April 10, 1958. As 14.


16.       PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (Johnston,

            Burke)  4'26

            September 29, 1959. Arrangement by Gösta Theselius. Solo: BN ts


17.       I COULD HAVE DANCED ALL NIGHT      (Lerner & Loewe) 2'35

            November 28, 1958. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Soloists: Benny Bailey tp, BN ts


18.       VALLEY STREAM SPECIAL(Harry Arnold)  3'17

            October 31, 1959. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Solos: Bengt-Arne Wallin tp, Bengt Hallberg p, BN ts, Åke Persson tb


19.       KINDA BLUES (Harry Arnold)  8'56

            October 31, 1959. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Solos: Bengt Hallberg p, Åke                       Persson tb, BN ts, Weine Renliden tp, Arnold Johansson, Sixten Eriksson, Bengt-  Arne Wallin and Benny Bailey tp, Georg Riedel b


20.       THAT'S A PLENTY (Lew Pollack)  5'00

            January 18, 1960. Arrangement by Bengt-Arne Wallin. Solos: Bengt Hallberg p, BN     Bengt-Arne Wallin tp, Andreas Skjold tb, Arne Domnérus as




1.         FLYING PIECES (Rolf Blomquist)  3'03

            January 18, 1960. Arrangement by Rolf Blomquist. Solos: Rolf Blomquist fl, Arne         Domnérus as cl, Bengt Hallberg p, BN ts


2.         VELVET GLOVES (Marshall Brown)  4'04

January 25, 1960. Arrangement by Marshall Brown. Solos: BN ts, Weine Renliden tp, Egil Johansen dr


3.         BROWNSVILLE EXPRESS (Ernie Wilkins)  3'07

            January 25, 1960. Arrangement by Ernie Wilkins. Solos: Arne Domnérus as, Weine      Renliden tp, BN ts, Bengt Hallberg p, Egil Johansen dr


4.         MAKE BELIEVE (Jerome Kern) 2'44

            October 10, 1960. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Solo: BN ts


5.         LOVER MAN (Davis, Ramirez, Sherman)  5'10

            March 4, 1963. Arrangement by unknown. Solos: Arne Domnérus cl, Gösta

Nilsson tp, Sonya Hedenbratt vo, BN ts


6.         PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (Johnston, Burke) 3'49

            April 1, 1963. Arrangement by Gösta Theselius. Solo: BN ts


7.         SATIN DOLL (Ellington, Strayhorn,Mercer) 5'02


            April 1, 1963. Arrangement by Georg Riedel. Solos: BN ts, Bengt Hallberg p


8.         WEDNESDAY NIGHT (Georg Riedel)  4'51

            December 18, 1961. Arrangement by Georg Riedel. Solo: BN ts


9.         SMOKE HOUSE (Goodman, Norman)  3'45

            January 10, 1962. Arrangement by Rolf Blomquist. Solos: Rolf Ericson tp, BN ts,         Bengt Hallberg p, Rolf Blomquist fl


10.       TICKLE TOE (Lester Young)  3'08

            March 19, 1962. Arrangement by Gösta Theselius. Solos: BN ts, Gösta Nilsson tp,       Jan Johansson p


11.       THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC (Arlen, Mercer)  3'22

            May 28, 1962. Arrangement by Gösta Theselius. Solo: BN ts


12.       LULLABY IN RHYTHM (Goodman, Sampson)  5'30

            June 18, 1962. Arrangement by Gösta Theselius. Solos: Gösta Nilsson tp, Jan               Johansson p, Arne Domnérus cl, BN ts


13.       A SWINGY SORT OF THING (Bengt-Arne Wallin)  3'16

            March 12, 1962. Arrangement by Bengt-Arne Wallin. Solos: Jan Johansson p,              Bengt-Arne Wallin tp, BN ts


14.       THE CHANT (Mel Stitzel)  3'01

            October 9, 1963. Arrangement by Jan Johansson. Solos: Gösta Nilsson tp, Arne           Domnérus cl, BN ts, Rolf Larsson p


15.       CHEROKEE (Ray Noble)  2'56

            October 9, 1963. Arrangement by Gösta Theselius. Solos: BN ts, Lennart

            Jansson bars, Rune Gustafsson g, Egil Johansen dr


16.       SATIN DOLL (Ellington, Strayhorn, Mercer)  4'37

            November 18, 1963. Arrangement by Georg Riedel. Solo: BN ts, Jan Johansson p


17.       WRAPPIN' IT UP (Fletcher Henderson) 4'15

            January 21, 1964. Arrangement by Gunnar Svensson. Solos: Jan Johansson p, Lennart Jansson bars, BN ts, Rolf Blomquist fl


18.       UNISON BLUES (Jan Johansson)  3'34

            December 12, 1964. Arrangement by Jan Johansson. Solos: Egil Johansen dr, Gösta     Nilsson tp, BN ts


19.       HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON (George Gershwin) 5'33

            February 4, 1965. Arrangement by Pete Jacques. Solos: Arne Domnérus cl, BN ts


20.       LINJE 44 (Ove Lind) 3'01

            March 11, 1965. Arrangement by Ove Lind. Solos: BN, Rolf Blomquist ts


21.       POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS (Jimmy Van Heusen) 3'34

            February 4, 1965. Arrangement by Harry Arnold. Solo: BN ts


Liner notes by Lars Westin

“Actually, I've been thinking of moving back to Oslo all the time”, said tenor saxophonist Bjarne Nerem in 1971, when we were talking about his recent come-back as a jazz soloist in the form of the highly praised LP ”How long has this been going on” (re-issued on CD with additional material as Gemini GMCD 72).


By that time, his residency in the Swedish capital had been going on for almost 20 years and, they had not always been happy ones. The balance between artistic ambition and the necessity of making a living had not been easily accomplished, and it's not a wild guess that he had been forced to swallow his pride many times in order to meet the demands of the music business. His mood-swings were not seldom reflected in his playing, fluctuating between the lethargic and the overwhelmingly brilliant. 


It would take another two years before he really made the move back to his native Norway. Then, at the age of 50 and widowed not long ago, he had spent almost half his life in Stockholm, living for a long time in the center of the city at Västmannagatan, one block north of the Gustav Vasa church.

Bjarne Nerem (1923-91) was but one of several talented Norwegian musicians making significant contributions to the jazz scene of their neighbouring country. After 1945, the superior financial and musical climate of Sweden, being the only nation in northern Europe not having been drawn into World War II, made it attractive for Norwegian jazz players to search for working opportunities there. Jazz events were a rarity in Norway, where even American jazz recordings were difficult to come by.


Three migrated Norwegians came to display their virtues as long-time members of the studio big band that was led for almost ten years at the Swedish Radio by arranger Harry Arnold. Drummer Egil Johansen (1934-98) replaced Nils-Bertil Dahlander already during the first season of the band's existence. Trombonist Andreas Skjold (1929-2003) was a charter member who remained with the orchestra until it sort-of faded away nine years later. In the band from start to the end was also Bjarne Nerem who early on became one of its star soloists.


Nerem had left his native Oslo for Stockholm already late in 1947 in order to join bassist Thore Jederby's quartet, replacing Norwegian trumpeter Rowland Greenberg, who had recommended him for the job. He arrived just in time to encounter both Chubby Jackson's quintet and the Dizzy Gillespie big band, who were touring Sweden, and he became heavily influenced by the new musical language of bebop. In the fall of 1948 and spring of 1949, Nerem worked at the Nalen dance hall in what was considered the first Swedish hard-core bebop-group, fronted by trumpeter Nisse Skoog.


Late in the spring of 1949, however, Nerem chose to return to Oslo, where he eventually joined the orchestra at the Regnbuen restaurant, playing jazz only occasionally. In the spring of 1952 his friend and tenor saxophone colleague Mikkel Flagstad left for Sweden to join bassist Simon Brehm's quintet, that included trombonist Åke Persson. When Persson left early in the autumn, Flagstad suggested Nerem for a replacement, thus making the band consist of two Norwegian tenor saxophonists and a Swedish rhythm section. In the following year the personnel was extended to eight pieces plus a 16-year-old vocalist, Barbro Svensson, who soon became known as ”Lill-Babs”.

Brehm's band being mainly a dance orchestra, Nerem restrained his lust for playing jazz in his everyday-job at the Bal Palais dance restaurant. His great qualities as an improviser were nevertheless recognised among his peers, partly due to his appearances at some of Nalen's jam sessions. Thus, in 1954 he was invited to play at a recording sessions with American drummer Roy Haynes and Swedish baritone saxophone star Lars Gullin, and he was increasingly in demand for studio work. In the early summer of 1955, Nerem joined American trumpeter Ernie Englund's new band, where he remained until the spring of 1958.

By that time, Nerem's fame had risen considerably from his participation in the Harry Arnold band. Comprising the foremost jazz players and most able studio musicians in Stockholm, the band made its official radio debut on October 4, 1956, but was actually broadcast already on October 3, featuring Bjarne Nerem in George Gershwin's ”Our Love Is Here To Stay”. This performance is included in this album as is the famous version from the band's first LP, recorded three months later. Being released in the United States as by ”The Jazztone Mystery Band” (a publicity-stunt staged by critic, producer and enthusiast George T. Simon), it got lots of world-wide attention, as did the handful of albums that followed.

 Bjarne Nerem's rhythmic ease and seemingly effortless melodic creativity, together with his pure, warm sound, made him fit perfectly into the orchestra's idiom of modern swing. Although the far more established and well-known Carl-Henrik Norin was also in the band, Nerem became its main tenor sax soloist from the start, being equally comfortable in ballads and fast-paced swingers. (He and Norin share the spotlight in two versions of ”Crazy Rhythm” included here.) When Norin left in 1958, his successor Rolf Blomquist occasionally played solos on tenor sax but was mostly featured on the flute, an instrument he was the first jazz performer to master in Sweden.


From the start, the ”radio band” was broadcasted weekly in the form of studio and concert recordings, occasionally featuring visiting soloists (and in 1958 American arranger and director Quincy Jones in a legendary collaboration). Becoming immensely popular through the radio, the band also gave concerts outside of Stockholm. Nerem’s outstanding qualities as a jazz soloist were widely recognised, and 19-year-old newcomer Bernt Rosengren, in his first radio interview in October 1957, pointed to Bjarne as one of the very few sources of inspiration found outside of American jazz.

In Norway many jazz fans re-tuned their radios once a week in order to catch the broadcasts of the Swedish radio big band.


As the Arnold orchestra was just a sideline of work for its members, some of whom (such as Norin and Arne Domnérus) were band-leaders themselves, there had to be substitutes from time to time. Much of these changes in the band's personnel are well documented but some are subject to guess-work by necessity as there is confusion between studio and broadcast dates. Only a small number of the programs are preserved in the archives, and most of the radio material


 included was taken from privately recorded air-checks.


Nerem, however, seems to have been present at most if not all sessions. Unlike most studio work, these day-time gatherings offered welcome opportunities to play jazz, and his best recordings from this period are no-doubt with the Arnold band. This goes for other participants as well, not at least for trumpeter (and sometimes valve-trombonist) Arnold Johansson, who otherwise made few jazz recordings. Featured here, of course, are also many of the most frequently recorded stars in Swedish jazz, not at  least Domnérus on both clarinet and alto sax, pianists Bengt Hallberg and Jan Johansson, to name but a few. Among the trumpeters is Benny Bailey, the American great, who was resident in Stockholm.


After touring with the Almstedt-Lind Sextet in the summer of 1958, Nerem spent the winter-season at Nalen, performing as a soloist and with singer Ruth Linn. In 1959 he worked with the bands of Åke Persson and drummer Anders Burman before re-joining Ernie Englund in 1960. In September 1961 he replaced Rolf Blomquist in Domnérus' band at Nalen, remaining until it was officially disbanded four years later. This coincided with the phasing-out of the Arnold band, the music of which no longer matched the needs of the radio as the taste among young people had been totally transformed from the jazz-based music of the 1950s into rock and modern pop.


This conversion was handled in different ways by seasoned musicians who found their artistry no longer in demand. Carl-Henrik Norin, for one, explicitly distanced himself from the ”jazz” label and turned into playing dance music that avoided all such qualities. Following Norin's death in 1967, the leadership of his orchestra (still under Norin's name and managed by Norin's family) was taken over by Andreas Skjold who recruited his fellow-Norwegian. Bjarne Nerem toured extensively with the Norin ”ghost band” in the next few years, playing at dance venues all over Sweden, ”doubling” on a Farfisa electric organ, and occasionally even providing vocals.

Around 1970, a swing-revival movement under way in Sweden brought renewed attention to several stars of the 1950s. Nerem's return to the jazz scene was highlighted by the aforementioned LP, earning him the jazz magazine Orkester Journalen's Golden Disc Award as best Swedish jazz album of the year. This opened up new opportunities: He appeared at jazz festivals and started to tour as a soloist. Invited to his native Norway, he received the welcome of a homecoming hero. After moving back to Oslo in 1973, Bjarne Nerem spent the rest of his life playing jazz exclusively, now and then making visits to Sweden for concerts, broadcasts, and recordings.


In the Harry Arnold recordings selected for this album, many released on record for the first time, Bjarne Nerem's work is mature and well-balanced yet also daring and full of surprises. (Check out his brief solo in ”I could have danced all night” out of the then-popular musical ”My Fair Lady”.)  Although his formative sources of inspiration can be sensed (most notably the laid-back rhythmic feel of the Count Basie band, as well as the sounds and phrasings of Lester Young and other tenor sax greats of the swing era), his voice is first and foremost highly personal.


There is an indisputable world-class quality in the ever so heart-felt tenor saxophone playing of Bjarne Nerem, and no wonder the Harry Arnold big band took the world by storm 50 years ago. They are back together on this retrospective album to be enjoyed by fans, old and new.