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Jazz from Tønsberg


The first jazz impulses came to Tønsberg during the occupation, when the summer resorts engaged jazz bands, and jazz bands included Tønsberg in the tour routes. The local jazz pioneer was named Per Asplin, played the piano and was 16 when he started swing band in 1944. Four years later the band went on tour around the south coast of Bergen to Bergen. Then Asplin moved to Oslo and became popular.

Tønsberg had an extremely modest tribe of jazz musicians. There was a jazz club in the city 1954-56 and 1958-63, but those who played there most often came from Oslo. One special talent appeared in 1955, the 13-year-old trumpeter Ditlef Eckhoff. At the age of 16, he won the jazz amateur's NM, and has since been one of the country's foremost jazz musicians. He moved to Oslo in 1960, but kept in touch with his hometown, lived there for short periods of the 60s; in one of them he helped start the club Jazz & Poetry, which in 1967-73 was a legendary melting pot for local actors, modern poets and jazz musicians, mostly from the capital.

The poetry club merged with Tønsberg Jazz Club 1974-78, again reorganized as Urijazz in 1979. At that time the pianist Ola Calmeyer had lived in the city for a while, the saxophonist and drummer Bernt Brinck Johnsen had established himself, and the guitarist Lars Martin Myhre started his first band ( 1977). But when Calmeyer and Brinck Johnsen moved to Oslo, young Lars Martin was left with responsibility for the city's organized jazz life, something he perceived as a urias post – hence the club name Urijazz.

25 years

The club celebrated its 25th anniversary last year and has released a double CD, Urijazz 25 years (Roman Records 0504), with recordings from the city's club environment. There are no recorded dates or complete casts, but I guess one CD contains recordings from the 1990s, the other from the 2000s.

CD2 is dominated by his wife, Magne Arnesen; piano, Ståle Amundsen; bass, and alternately Dag Arild Espeseth and Ulf Lauridsen on drums. Arnesen stands out here as a sparkling pianist – an inspiring addition among the younger musicians in Tønsberg. After the trio, Bernt Brinck Johnsen is the album's most launched musician, on eight tracks, as drummer in Ola Calmeyer's trio, alto saxophonist with string quartet, tenor saxophonist with his wife and baritone saxophone in larger ensembles. Saxophonist Steinar Brenna is on five tracks, as a soloist with his wife and in the groups Tvers i mellem and Back in Town. Jeanette Kristiansen is a fascinating and fearless singer on four tracks with her wife and Tønsberg Storband.

In such an anniversary anthology, I would probably miss a couple of significant groups. I think of Lars Martin Myhr's trio, which existed in 1978-85, and was the central band in the environment, with Olaf Kamfjord on bass and alternating drummers. Trombonist Dag Einar Eilertsen was a driving force in the early 1990s with La Descarga, Vestfold Jazz Ensemble, the Nuclear Family and its own quartet; only one track with a later quartet edition is included.


Brinck Johnsen, nicknamed Roman, is probably the city's most profiled jazz musician. Born in 1946, he began as a drummer in the 1960s, eventually playing alto saxophone, baritone and tenor. For ten years (1976-86) he lived mostly in Oslo, was responsible for the club Jazz Alive (1980-86) and led his own half-sized bands (LP with Winds Hot & Cool in 1984). Back in Tønsberg, he started his own idealistic record company, Roman Records, took in 1993 two young musicians from Tjøme and one from Våle and recorded the CD Black Orpheus (RR 9301).

Two years later he made various recordings with musicians from Oslo to Sandefjord and presented them on the CD Lover Man (RR 9602). His most recent record in his own name is from 2002, where he has included the trumpeter Petter Kateraas and the wife of Urijazz in a quintet, taken with five tunes where he is a soloist with the Tønsberg Big Band, and released it on the CD waypoints (RR 0203). Roman Records has also released the CD In the still of the night (2003-04) with Knut Hansen's orchestra, a continuation of the nine-man group to Sandefjord's most famous jazz band leader (1925-85). And CD # 5 from Roman is thus the anniversary album for Urijazz.

Ola Calmeyer is mentioned several times in this review. He grew up in Horten, played in the USA 1953-63, alternated living in Oslo, Vestfold and Drammen and played a lot with Ditlef Eckhoff and Brinck Johnsen. On this occasion, it is therefore worth mentioning that his 1990 LP, Jazz poem (Jazzland JL1) has now been re-released on CD as Vol. 1 in the series «Ola Calmeyer project». Wonderful music by some of the country's finest musicians (including Eckhoff and Bjørn Johansen) and recitation by Joachim Calmeyer – in the spirit of Tønsberg's Jazz & Poetry.

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