If you check the personnel of Charlie Barnet’s band in 1949—the killer one with arrangements by Bobby Sherwood, Manny Albam, Pete Rugolo, Gil Fuller, Dave Matthews and Johnny Richards—you’ll find a guy named Rolf Ericson in the trumpet section. Ericson sat next to horn players such as Maynard Ferguson, Lammar Wright, Doc Severinsen, Ray Wetzel and Shorty Rogers, as the personnel shifted on the road and in the recording studio. Ericson had come over to the States in 1947 from Sweden to play with Barnet as well as Woody Herman’s Second Herd before returning home. He was back in the States 1952 to record in a fleet of other top bands as well as the Lighthouse All-Stars on the West Coast.
Then in the spring of 1956, Ericson popped back to Sweden to record with two extraordinary rhythm sections for the country’s Metronome label. That May and June, he recorded with Cecil Payne (bar), Duke Jordan (p), John Simmons (b) and Art Taylor (d) to cut 10 tracks, including one with vocalist Ernestine Anderson. But this group apparently ran afoul of the Swedish drug laws and were sent back to the States. In July, they were replaced on the road in Sweden by Lars Gullin (bar), Freddie Redd (p), Tommy Potter (b) and Joe Harris (d), with Ernestine Anderson (vcl) remaining, where they were recorded live. All of this astonishing music appeared on the American EmArcy label as part of Mercury’s distribution deal with Sweden.
Now, all of it is on the just released Rolf Ericson and His All American Stars (Fresh Sound). Interestingly, the point of gathering the American aritsts for the studio sessioni was to tour the many Swedish Falk Parks during the summer months. The first rhythm section was exceptional—Jordan, Simmons and Taylor. Interestingly, all three would never record together after this encounter. Simmons and Taylor would on trombonist Matthew Gee’s Jazz By Gee, recorded after the ejected musicians returned to New York in 1956. [Photo above, from left, Chet Baker, Miles Davis and Rolf Ericson at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, Calif., in 1953]
All of the musicians are superb, particularly Cecil Payne and Duke Jordan. But the big surprise is Ericson. He played a tight, lyrical trumpet, reminiscent in some ways of Buddy Childers, and his idiomatic feel was pure Birdland. If you dig Ernestine Anderson, the six vocal tracks on this release are solid, but there are few breaks in the vocal for solos.
Rolf Ericson died in 1997.
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