Nelson Daily News ~ Feb.8, 2001

By Kirsten Stolee

Swedish Jazz musician Tomas Janzon wants to "spread the news" in the Queen City.

Janzon is teaching at Selkirk College this semester and the artist in resident loves to work with the music and the students. "To be able to work with the music I love and share it with others -- it is an incredible privilege," he says. "I really want to bring the good news...That's what my lady bass player in Los Angeles told me when I left. Bring the good news and what is the good news, I don't know. But music is alive and it really brings us together and we can forget about all the things that make us feel apart."

Janzon travels extensively and the musician saw possibilities here. The Nelson venue is exciting as is teaching jazz and classical guitar, jazz history among other courses is something he hasn't done for a while, he says.

Janzon was born in Stockholm and his musical quest started early with the recorder at age 7 and from there he quickly took up the cello and guitar. Still, he says musical talent is as much training as it is something you are born with. "It takes a lot of work, there are no short cuts for that but, of course, there is talent involved too," he says. "But that comes secondary."

Janzon started his training at Musikhogskolan, the Royal School of Music in Stockholm. After touring, performing, and recording in Sweden and Northern Europe, the exciting jazz scene in Los Angeles attracted the musician. Jazz is a powerful and vital art form that is spreading around the world but Janzon wanted to go to America where jazz has its roots.

World famous Whitewater Skiing"There are a lot of great musicians that live there (in L.A.)," he says. "So there are always new things happening with places opening and closing and new possibilities."

Janzon continued to study in the U.S. and completed a Masters-degree with honours in classical guitar at USC Thorton School of Music.

In L.A. Jazz Scene, a reviewer describes Janzon's latest CD 'X-Changes' as the fruits of a musician who "reminds us that jazz is still cool and always enjoyable." Janzon says he has fun with jazz and when people realize this through his music, he has accomplished his goal. "When you realize it makes a difference and people actually have a strong reaction to it that is really exciting," he says.

Jazz is about the moment and usually that exciting moment is created on stage where he's played with world famous musicians like Billy Higgins, Alphonso Johnson, Dave Carpenter, and Sherman Ferguson who is featured on his latest CD. "It is live music. It is made for being played live," he says. Janzon recorded most of X-Changes in one take.

Derek Taylor of Cadence Magazine describes the cool and seamless X-Changes as a disc "easily recommended to listeners with a taste for mainstream jazz guitar that retains and rejoices in a creative edge."

This is the first CD produced by Janzon allowing him to have complete control over his original melodies and rhythms which is important because to him, jazz means freedom of expression. "I love the challenge of making up something out of nothing and the freedom to express yourself," he says. "Your personality comes out in jazz maybe more than in any other music. The tradition in jazz is that you find your own voice...To have that type of voice in your style, that is an incredible thing you have with you.

Maybe that's why in an age of techno, jazz is gaining a younger audience. In Janzon's jazz history class there are 45 first year students, he says. "Jazz is opening up and a young audience is coming in," he says. "Most people are very curious about it. They all have some kind of relationship to it. Students here like to get together and jam, play grooves, not extremely loud, more like at a jazz level...Improvising and making up things and making it groove so people want to dance that is all related to jazz."

When Janzon isn't listening to jazz the artist turns to the classical, Bach and Stravinski and the blues, John Lee Hooker. "Stravinski, Bach, and John Lee Hooker, that's a good combination," he says. "I saw John Lee Hooker in Los Angeles last year and it was an incredible concert. He's one of the old blues men. He is very spiritual and very much about spirituality and connecting with each other."

Janzon hopes to connect with Nelson audiences this week. On Feb. 9, he'll be playing with a bassist and drummer at the Glacier Gourmet making it more a traditional "jazz gig." On Feb. 11, Janzon will play solo at the Rice Bowl covering a mix of styles including classical guitar and jazz.


Express - March 21, 2001

Janzon and his small studio band are hard at work but making it easy for the listener. Drummer Sherman Ferguson, bassist Nedra Wheeler, and saxman Louis Taylor seem to understand each other very well and and their communication is apparent in the smooth texture of this progressive jazz collection.

All but two of the nine compositions are Janzon's own. A graduate in music with a Master's degree from Stockholm's Royal School, Janzon has a style on guitar both staccato and liquid by turns.

My personal favourite is "Catch'er" — where hand drums and hand claps provide a fine rhythmic line to carry the guitar and sax. On "27 Years" the grooves in Wheeler's bass line are infectious. "Archipelago Away" has a feel that is moody and loose, and seems suggestive of more going on than is obvious to the ear. Janzon is a fine soloist who never domineers while fully enjoying the free form of his guitar.

The album has been very well received by critics and the public, and Janzon is gratified. Orkesterjournalen, the Swedish review, highlighted it.

I asked him about the use of the Internet — he has a website at — for music marketing, and he is careful to note he doesn't know about the Napster issue.

He declares that "we [musicians] must watch our rights to our music." He went the independent-label route because it is good business.

There are only four major labels now controlling the music industry, and by going independent, an artist can make much better returns — as much as four times the revenue on each unit sold.


In Concert:
Friday, March 30th
Glacier Gourmet, 8pm

by C. Jeanes
Express - March 21, 2001

Tomas Janzon is a resident of Los Angeles, a Swede by birth, and a jazz artist by conviction. He is also the Artist in Residence at the Selkirk music program until April, a position he attained through the Internet.

Jazz and Sweden are not natural word-associations, but Janzen explains that Sweden is the third largest national market for popular music, after the USA and the UK. Charley 'the bird' Parker visited Sweden in 1950. If most people would think of ABBA when they think of Swedish pop, he observes that jazz is a very popular form in his native land and that it is not just in the urban areas.

Thanks to government support of the arts and culture, jazz is heard in the small clubs too, and there is a recognizable "Scandinavian jazz sound" according to Janzon. He notes that Canada too supports its music with taxes.

Kootenay Lake Ferry ~ the world's longest free ferry ride.

Asked about the distinguishing marks of jazz compared to blues, Janzon is wary of seeming to criticize another genre, but asserts that jazz is very quick to change and evolve, and declares his belief that jazz is now poised on the edge of very significant innovations. He recalls that "between 1945 and 1965, jazz went through huge changes" and he thinks "there's something happening again now...a sort of humanistic approach" that he sees in his music students.

Selkirk College youth have surprised him as "fantastic students, very creative," says Janzon, and he hears a "rounder sound" now, due to the hip hop that young people now favour as opposed to the heavy rock of 20 years ago.

Janzon's teaching duties are not his major livelihood.

He is a working musician and has just released a CD on his own independent label (see review). Janzon says he tells his students, "The musician's life is tough. It's a commitment. If you care about it 100%, it's wonderful, but it can bother you too when you care so have to go for it and pound fenceposts [for the money] in between playing music. It's like we say, you have to pay your dues."


Guitarist at Glacier
Express ~ Feb. 7, 2001

Accomplished guitarist Tomas Janzon will play at Glacier Gourmet and the Rice Bowl this week.

After studying at USC Thornton School of Music, his talents are sharply honed. You can hear them when Tomas Janzon's Trio plays at Glacier Gourmet on Friday, Feb. 9 from 8 to 10:30 p.m., and again when he plays as a solo guitarist at the Rice Bowl on Feb. 11.

Janzon was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and began playing music at age seven. Later, he studied at the Royal School of Music in Stockholm and toured northern Europe. After moving to Los Angeles, he continued his studies and since then he has played with the likes of Ben Vereene, Charo, the Fifth Dimension, and Alphonso Johnson. His CD will be for sale at Packrat Annie's and Zoom CDs.