Oslo Jazz Circle Presents Portrait of a Norwegian Jazz Artist
Gemini Records  GMO 95014/15

Bjarne Nerem in Sweden, Small Band Sessions

1.         SEPTEMBER SONG (Weill, Anderson) 4'00

            Simon Brehm Orchestra

Leppe Sundevall (tp), Åke Persson (tb), Bjarne Nerem, Claes Rosendahl (ts), Johnny Ekh (bs), Åke Ejemoh (p), Simon Brehm (b), Sven Bollhem (dr), Gösta

Theselius (arr).

            Stockholm Concert Hall,  April 25, 1955


2.         SOPHISTICATED LADY (Ellington, Mills, Parish) 4'23

3.         TICKLE TOE (Young) 3'39

            Arne Domnérus' Orchestra

            Bengt-Arne Wallin (tp), Arne Domnérus (as), Bjarne Nerem (ts), Rune Falk (bs), Jan

            Johansson (p), Rune Gustafsson (g), Arne         Wilhelmsson (b), Egil Johansen (dr).

            Nalen, Stockholm, January 31, 1962.


4.         LAURA (Raksin, Mercer) 4'19

5.         ZING! WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART (Hanley) 4'09

6.         SOON (Gershwin, Gershwin) 4'17

            Jan Johansson Trio with Bjarne Nerem

            Bjarne Nerem (ts), Jan Johansson (p), Georg Riedel (b), Egil Johansen (dr).

            Kristianstad, spring 1964.


7.         Interlude by Dizzy Gillespie 1'40

8.         BLUES  (trad.) 7'13


            (Washington, Bassman) 7'38

11.       STARS FELL ON ALABAMA (Perkins, Parish) 6'48

12.       LOVER COME BACK TO ME Romberg) 7'42         

Bjarne Nerem with Knud Jörgensen Trio

Bjarne Nerem (ts), Knud Jörgensen (org), Sture Nordin (b), Egil Johansen (dr), Dizzy Gillespie (tp track 10, introduction track 7).

            Stockholm, Aug. 27, 1970.


1.         NEW ORLEANS (Carmichael) 4'06

2.         HEMLAGAD SAMBA (Riedel) 3'25

3.         C'EST SI BON (Betti, Hornez) 2'52

            Georg Riedel's Ensemble

            Including George Vernon (b), Rolf Blomquist (fl),          Arne Domnérus (cl), Bjarne

Nerem (ts), Knud Jörgensen (p), Rune Gustafsson (g), Georg

            Riedel (b, arr.), Bosse Skoglund (dr). Broadcast April 7 (1) and 21, 1964.


4.         I LET A SONG GO OUT OF MY HEART     (Mills, Nemo, Redmond, Ellington) 5'35

5.         MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT (Blackburn, Suessdorf) 6'44

6.         SOON (Gershwin, Gershwin) 5'08

7.         BJARNE'S BLUES (Nerem) 6'05

8.         BUT NOT FOR ME (Gershwin, Gershwin) 5'19

9.         STARDUST (Parish, Carmichael) 4'54

10.       LESTER LEAPS IN (Young) 5'39

            Bjarne Nerem Quartet

            Bjarne Nerem (ts), Lars Sjösten (p), Sture Nordin (b), Rolf Svensson (dr).

            Stampen, Stockholm, July 29, 1971.


  1. KEEPIN' OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW (Razaf, Waller) 5'29

12. EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME (Adair, Dennis) 7'16

13. HAVE YOU MET MISS JONES (Rodgers, Hart) 6'49

      Bjarne Nerem & Kenny Drew Trio

      Bjarne Nerem (ts), Kenny Drew (p), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (b), Alex

Riel (dr).

      Kristianstad, July 8, 1976

Liner notes by Lars Westin 

When Bjarne Arnulf Nerem left Oslo to join the Swedish band-leader Simon Brehm in the fall of 1952, he was a seasoned player. Having established himself during the German occupation of Norway, he made his first recording in 1943, aged 20, with the band Syv Muntre. He had also spent a couple of years in Stockholm in the late 1940s, working in the bands of bassist Thore Jederby and trumpeter Nisse Skoog, both exploring the musical language of bebop. After returning to Oslo, playing almost three years in a dance band at a restaurant, he now became employed in a jazz-oriented Stockholm-based quintet that came to feature two Norwegian tenor saxophone stars, the other being 22-year-old Mikkel Flagstad. On Brehm's initiative, all members of the band even grew “bebop beards” for a while. The unit was, however, eventually expanded to eight pieces and Brehm landed a steady job at Bal Palais, a dance venue, where demands were for pop tunes of the day and a more strict musical approach. The band's teenaged vocalist, Barbro Svensson, grew increasingly popular, eventually adapting the name “Lill-Babs”. She later recounted how she had earned some extra money by doing cleaning-work on day-time at the private homes of Brehm's bandsmen.


Although Brehm was heavily involved with the Karusell record company, which he had co-founded in 1952, his orchestra rarely appeared on record, and, if so, provided music with few if any jazz qualities. The opener of this album, recorded at a Charlie Parker memorial concert, is a rare example of his orchestra playing within a jazz context. Even the reporter of the jazz magazine Orkester Journalen, being the main arranger of the event, found it a “surprise what a fine and homogenous ensemble” Brehm presented and pointed at the solos of trombonist Åke Persson and Nerem in “September Song” as highlights of the performance.


A few days after this concert, Nerem joined American trumpeter Ernie Englund's new band. He remained until the spring of 1958, touring Sweden extensively and playing at several of the top dance restaurants in Stockholm. This was a show and dance orchestra focusing mainly on the leader's virtuosity, spanning from the sentimentally romantic to blistering “fireworks”, sometimes with the addition of outgoing, rock'n roll-inspired vocals by Englund. It was mainly for his work on the side with the Harry Arnold studio big band at the Swedish radio, that Bjarne Nerem became well-known and widely appreciated as a jazz soloist. (His work with Arnold from 1956 to 1965 can be heard on GMOJCD 95012-13, “The big band sessions.)


From the summer of 1958, Nerem worked with the Almstedt-Lind Sextet, the singer Ruth Linn, and in the bands of Åke Persson and Anders Burman before re-joining Englund in 1960. In 1961 he was recruited to the Arne Domnérus's band at Nalen in Stockholm, remaining until the job terminated four years later. This was also an intense period of studio work, much of which was spin-offs from the Arnold and Domnérus bands. On records, Nerem rarely got to display his qualities as a jazzman. In 1960, the magazine of the Swedish musicians' union even wrote about Bjarne's “rock tenor sax” being very “authentic in style” on a pop record.


With Domnérus, however, Nerem was heavily featured. This is reflected by radio material preserved from the period, of which two tracks from a live midnight-broadcast are included here. Duke Ellington's “Sophisticated Lady” is a duet with guitarist Rune Gustafsson, and Lester Young's “Tickle Toe” is, of course, a feature for Bjarne's “Lesterish” tenor.


Pianist Jan Johansson's trio, a “band within the band”, made a series of weekly morning radio shows, “Schoolways”, playing to teenaged audiences at various schools around Sweden. The trio and a guest soloist traveled to these locations by night-train, returning quickly in order to be back for whatever engagements were scheduled in Stockholm. In Kristianstad, Nerem was featured, and three of his numbers are included here.


Along with Johansson and trumpeter Bengt-Arne Wallin, bassist Georg Riedel contributed most of the arrangements for the Domnérus band and also to the Arnold studio orchestra. In the spring of 1964, Riedel led a series of studio recording at the radio, playing his own scores for various combinations of selected musicians. Three tracks featuring Bjarne Nerem, including Riedel's “home-cooked samba”, open the second disc here.


When Domnérus left Nalen due to the advent of “rock” and ”pop” as the young generations' music of the day, Nerem fell into obscurity, as did many of his peers. Some left the music biz altogether, some chose to become teachers at the municipal music schools established all over Sweden, and some, like Bjarne Nerem, moved into other areas of music. From 1967 and on, he played with the pop orchestra that had been formed already in 1962 by a dejected Carl-Henrik Norin, the tenor saxophone star and band-leader at Nalen, who explicitly succumbed to the changes in popular taste. Following Norin's death in 1967, Nerem was brought in on tenor saxophone, playing a repertoire of watered-down dance music with no connections to jazz, and ”doubling” on organ and background vocals. 

In 1968, the “jazz-pub” Stampen opened in Stockholm's Old Town, stating its motto on a sign above the stage, “Happy jazz, please”, presupposedly meaning the opposite of the avant-garde jazz of the day. Stampen became a water-hole for people that had once constituted the crew of teenagers at Nalen and other venues. A way-leader in the “swing revival” that followed was clarinetist Ove Lind, whose music was modeled after Benny Goodman's small-groups of the '30s and '40s. Lind also fronted the “house-band” at the summer evening outdoor-concerts at Skansen, re-established in 1969. For years, nobody in the “jazz community” had heard much from Bjarne Nerem until he made a brief appearance, backed by Lind's quintet, at the final concert at Skansen in the summer of 1970.


A few days later, Nerem joined organist Knud Jörgensen's trio at the opening concert of The Stockholm Jazz Days at Folkets Hus. This memorable three-day festival was hosted by Dizzy Gillespie, who introduced the bands and played musical interludes. Although his presentations occasionally got somewhat confused, he managed to set a good mood for the musicians as well as the attentive listeners that filled the Congress Hall. Listening to Nerem, many must have asked themselves: where has this excellent jazz soloist been hiding?


In October, 1970, the Norin “ghost band” worked at a hotel in Umeå at the time of the jazz festival there. Among its top attractions were the Clarke Boland Big Band including Åke Persson, Benny Bailey, Jimmy Woode Jr. and Sahib Shihab, with whom Nerem had worked and recorded in studios and as a jazz soloist earlier in life. Many of them stayed at the hotel and must have encountered Bjarne, who didn't perform at the festival at all nor was invited to any of the festivities surrounding the event.


By this time Ove Lind and record producer Gunnar Lindqvist had already talked about making an LP presentation of Bjarne. Studio dates were set for January, 1971, and Lind contributed arrangements. The title of the album “How long has this been going on?” was derived from a Gershwin tune included, but also an adequate question: how come this great player had escaped fame for so many years? Bjarne was eventually awarded jazz magazine Orkester Journalen's prestigious Golden Disc Award for making the best Swedish jazz album of the year (re-issued on CD with additional material as Gemini GMCD 72).


Now Nerem started to appear as a front-man (and occasionally side-man) at Stampen and other venues. Included here is a live-recording for a radio show with pianist Lars Sjösten, whose impeccably rhythmic, delicate touch, and sensitive and witty playing comes to the fore in several solos, the ever-swinging bassist Sture Nordin, and the energetic drummer Rolf “Slangen” Svensson. Nerem plays some of his favourite “evergreens” and also “Bjarne's blues”, an on-the-spot composition in which he quotes from the opening tune “I let a song go out of my heart” as well as touches upon Wardell Gray's 1949 classic “Twisted”.


After moving back to his native Oslo in 1973 and until his death in 1991, Bjarne Nerem made many returns to Sweden for concerts, broadcasts, and recordings, often playing in the company of Lars Sjösten and Sture Nordin, who occasionally also joined him in Oslo. The closing set here, however, captures him in the company of the American pianist Kenny Drew and his Copenhagen comrades, the bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and the drummer Alex Riel. Recorded in the summer of 1976 at the Kristianstad jazz festival, Nerem is in excellent form, greeted as a star by a large and enthusiastic audience.


A star he was, indeed!