Tomas Janzon

From Stockholm With Love
Tomas Janzon
Tomas Janzon: Chris Drukker.

On Tomas Janzon’s Nomadic, the Stockholm transplant based in New York channels his inner Wes Montgomery to unveil fresh compositions with clever harmonic twists, all supported by lush hollowbody tones and a silky touch. Janzon’s pursuit of jazz excellence is particularly admirable because he’s European, and Nomadic is perfect late-night ear candy.

What was on your mind when you were putting these songs together?
I always have music on my mind. That’s an ongoing thing whether I record or not. I start practicing first thing in the morning after breakfast. Every day, I come up with something and write it down — small one-liners or two-bar ideas. I jot it down, like a diary, and it could be something I work into a composition.

You wrote most of these songs during the pandemic.
I wrote all of the songs except one old tune. My wife said, “You should record that one.” (laughs) The theme was this nomadic idea. I don’t know where it came from. I’ve been living a nomadic life. I’m not living on a bicycle (laughs), but I move around quite a bit. And some of the title is connected to the music. During the pandemic, I went back to Stockholm for a while. My wife lives in Los Angeles. I started recording in 2021 in L.A., but New York is my main base.

You create wonderful chord melodies and counterpoint. Which guitarists inspire you?
The first is Wes Montgomery. He is a source like water I keep coming back to. There were a few years back in Stockholm when I was playing Wes all the time. I bought all the vinyl records I could get and transcribed them. People told me, “Why are you playing that? Why don’t you use some distortion?” I had already done that in my teens, so I was over it (laughs). My jazz started with Django Reinhardt, and I went from there. There were other jazz guitarists, but I couldn’t figure out what Wes Montgomery was doing. He’s not playing the roots, fifths, or thirds so much. He’s playing the ninths and elevenths and landing on the outskirts of the chords. Joe Pass is an inspiration, as well.

You cover “Hot House” in a surprising way.
I had some ideas about crunching in Lee Konitz in some subconscious way on “Hot House.” So that’s why it’s called “SubconsciousLee-Hot House.” I met him, and he passed away just before the pandemic.

The rhythmic feel of “Ascending” is hypnotic.
“Ascending” has that rhythmic sense of play. I’m a European with an accent, even though I’ve lived in America for more than 25 years. I surround myself with black music. I grew up with classical – I played cello and grew up with Bach, so that’s where the counterpoint comes from. The rhythm in jazz is so sophisticated and on another level. There are people who would say classical music is more-sophisticated, but I know, because I’ve played both. Classical is more-approximate, and jazz requires finesse. For me, it’s really exciting to work with rhythms, especially in Latin jazz and Cuban styles. North American jazz is a little more convoluted because the drums aren’t divided like in Puerto Rico, with different percussionists. In America, there’s one drummer playing everything. Also, I learned while transcribing Sonny Rollins and Wes, and asking, “What the hell is going on?” (laughs).

What’s your main guitar?
It’s my ’59 L-7. I got it from a shop in Stockholm a long time ago. An American jazz musician living in Denmark owned it before. It was beat up. It has P-90s and a Lindy Fralin pickup on top. It’s a lovely guitar.

Which amplifiers did you record with?
In that session, there was a Fender Princeton at the studio. It had a very warm and lovely sound. Otherwise, I use my own Hot Rod DeVille with two 12″ speakers. I have a Carr amplifier, but it’s not something you want to carry down the stairs.

No pedals?
Nowadays, my aesthetic is a guitar and the best cable I can find. The cable I’ve had for 15 years is a Prolink by Monster Cable. I plug right in – nothing in-between. The less in-between, the better! Having only one good cable, it’s always with me. I plug straight in using spring reverb from the amp. I want to get as close as possible to the essence of the sound.

Any other recordings or gigs on the horizon?
There’s so much to do. Seven days a week is not enough. Besides working on music, it’s time to think about the next release. I’m booking tours, playing, and doing publicity for Nomadic. I’ll be playing in Los Angeles and near the Arctic Circle in a town called Korpilombolo, in Sweden.

This article originally appeared in VG’s May 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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