Bengt “Frippe” Nordström – Vinyl Box
For the past decade, Mats Gustafsson has fastidiously produced and compiled the most thorough and comprehensive collection of archival solo recordings of the late legendary Swedish saxophonist and eccentric archivist of free music activity in Sweden, Bengt “Frippe” Nordström (1936–2000). Bringing together rare and unreleased recordings taken from an extensive collection of home-recorded solo sax improvisations, it documents his radical and experimental approach to the instrument, which predates the avant-garde solo work of artists such as Anthony Braxton, Evan Parker, Lee Konitz, Steve Lacy, Roscoe Mitchell, Peter Brötzmann and others.
Little is known about Nordström outside of the small circle of avid free music aficionados, largely owing to the fact that the releases on his in-house label Bird Notes were pressed in editions as small as 1 to 10 copies. These 78, 45 and 33 rpm artifacts, often only made as test pressings for friends, were never introduced to the broader music market at the time. Over 50 metal masters were produced in 12” and 7” format and were combined or recombined on different records, which makes these objects exemplars of a kind of pre-post-modern approach to distribution and manufacturing — both a nightmare and a wet dream for collectors up to this day.
Nordström was well-acquainted with Don Cherry and Albert Ayler, befriending both the legendary artists in their respective time in Stockholm. He recorded Ayler’s first solo record Something Different!!!!!! in 1962, founding his Bird Notes label in the process. Over the following decade, his trusted ¼-inch tape recorder was used to document his own practice and many other free music events in Stockholm.
Frippe was known for his eccentric personality and strikingly formal attire, a musician with the dress sense of a bespectacled accountant haunting the jazz clubs of Stockholm seven nights a week. Notoriously, the outsider would frequently storm the stage of ensembles with no prior invitation to collaborate or simply gate-crash the gig by playing his sax from the audience.
Gustafsson’s enduring work in anthologising his friend and mentor culminates in this release, a comprehensive collection of never-before-heard recordings of an artist of action and attitude whose work has had a decisive influence on the underground free improvised music scene in Sweden. In close collaboration with the Swedish writer and art critic Thomas Millroth, an acknowledged specialist in all things Frippe, the ultimate box set has finally become a reality, an object to behold, beautifully designed by Teresa Iten for Ni-Vu-Ni-Connu.
Besides spectacular recordings of unreleased solo work from the 1960s for Nordström’s Bird Note label and the first reissue of the legendary album Natural Music from 1968, it contains a series of tributes performed by some of the most respected proponents of today’s Swedish improvised music scene: Anna Högberg, Isak Hedtjärn, Dror Feiler, Jörgen Adolfsson, Mats Gustafsson, and Sven-Åke Johansson.
“Here, in one amazing package, is the explosion Bengt ‘Frippe’ Nordström set off with his Bird Notes label and his own radical approach to solo saxophone. Exhaustively researched and lovingly restored, this music now finally returns from the realm of the out of reach, and ready to reset the timer again.”
Natural Music album/nvnc-lp032
Drastic Plastic album/nvnc-lp033
To Bengt 10inch/nvnc-lp036
When Will The Blues Leave? single/nvnc-ep001
A 32-page booklet with essays by Thomas Millroth and John Corbett, unpublished photography, rare press clippings and notes from the artist.
A complete Bird Note detailed discography compiled by Mats Gustafsson.
Free streaming of “FRIPPE Bengt Nordström, Moderna Muséet, 1973-05-29”, a film by Torbjörn Ehrnvall.
Inconstant Sol, 20 January 2023
Here’s the result of a huge body of work over two decades by Mats Gustafsson and Thomas Millroth to collect, archive, research and document the work of their friend and Mats’ musical mentor, Bengt Nordström – a work of love and dedication to a singular artist.
The set includes the first re-release of Bengt’s Natural Music LP and the first release of music that he shared with friends in tiny runs of test pressings on his Bird Notes label (on 3 LPs, Drastic Plastic, Någonting and Reality). There’s a 7″ EP of Bengt playing solo with the Ornette Coleman Quintet record, When Will the Blues Leave? (11/10 on the Discaholic Corner music/rarity scales). The set is completed musically with a 10″ tribute LP of performances by Anna Högberg, Isak Hedtjärn, Dror Feiler, Jörgen Adolfsson, Mats Gustafsson and Sven-Åke Johansson.
The Free Jazz Collective, 29 May 2023
As a fan of Swedish saxophonist and visionary (he was the first to record Albert Ayler!) Bengt Frippe Nordström since I first heard him on Arthur Doyle and Sunny Murray’s Live at the Glenn Miller Café (Ayler Records) back in the mid-2000s, my heart began to race when I saw this release. Un- or underheard archival solo cuts from Nordström, including one apparently playing over a recording of When Will the Blues Leave? on the Ornette Coleman Quartet’s Something Else? (What a curio!) Several short contributions from Swedish admirers Anna Högberg, Isak Hedtjärn, Dror Feiler, Jörgen Adolfsson, Mats Gustafsson, and Sven-Åke Johansson? All splayed out across numerous vinyls, packaged with a book of essays, a playful Frippe Nordström (think the American department store Nordstrom’s) bag and whatever other tschotscke’s Ni Vu Ni Connu decided to throw in there? Alas, I discovered it too late, and the physical vinyl set was sold out! Still, I was able to procure a digital version.
Point of Departure, June 2023
If one knows about Swedish saxophone player Bengt “Frippe” Nordström at all, it might be due to his having recorded and originally released Albert Ayler’s first recording, Something Different!!!!!!, on his Bird Notes label, initially with a run of 200 copies. Or maybe it’s from his appearance on a small handful of recordings from the 1980s on the Ayler label. But only the most dedicated crate diggers know about the astonishing cache of recordings Nordstrom made and released on Bird Notes, some in editions of between 1 and 10 copies.