Sunday, August 25, 2013

Jonas Hellborg :The Wild Improviser

Jonas Hellborg
Jonas Hellborg
Jonas Hellborg was born 1958 in Gothenburg, Sweden. He taught himself to play the bass at age 12. Influenced by artists such as Jimi Hendrix, cream, and deep purple, Hellborg played mainly blues and heavy rock. In 1972 he heard a record that changed his perception of music. This album, the inner mounting flame, by the Mahavishnu Orchestra (featuring English guitarist John McLaughlin) would not only influence his music, but his career as well. Formal studies in jazz and classical music started at the age of sixteen. At this time he became involved with a free form group. He listened to albert Ayler, John Coltrane. He studied Miles Davis' development from the early part of his career through the beginning of the seventies when Davis produced, in a silent way, and bitches brew.

Dissatisfied with the various rock groups he had been touring with, Hellborg turned to more challenging music and solo concerts. In 1981, he was invited to play at the Monteux jazz festival. Michael brecker was impressed by hellborg's playing there and introduced him to many of the jazz greats including his long-time idol John McLaughlin. Hellborg sent him some tapes of his music. In 1982 hellborg created his own record label, day eight, in order to allow him and others to record with full artistic freedom. The first record was hellborg's first solo bass release, "the bassic thing". In May 1983, hellborg joined avant-garde pianist Michael j. Smith and drummer Michael shrieve (of Santana fame) to record day eight's second release, "all our steps". Shortly after this McLaughlin invited hellborg to join the reforming Mahavishnu Orchestra. The first performance hellborg did with McLaughlin was a television show in Paris where they played in trio with Billy Cobham on drums. Early 1984 saw the addition of saxman bill evans and keyboardist Mitch forman and the group released the self-titled album "Mahavishnu". At the same time hellborg released his second solo bass album "elegant punk". Before the first Mahavishnu tour ex - Pat metheny group drummer Danny gottlieb replaced Billy cobham, the group completed two world tours.

 In 1985 Hellborg and McLaughlin started playing duet concerts. In an effort to explore a different musical mood, the two created an intimate chamber music kind of jazz/funk that was almost classical in its texture. Additionally, that same year, hellborg recorded "axis" with parliament/funkadelic keyboardist Bernie worrell, singer Bernard fowler and drummer Anton fier. 1986 saw the release of the second Mahavishnu album, "adventures in radioland" (recorded in milan, italy) and another world tour. In 1987, mclaughlin-hellborg duo toured throughout japan, the US and Europe. In 1988 McLaughlin and hellborg was joined by Indian percussionist Trilok gurtu for a tour of the US. After this tour hellborg left McLaughlin, but he recorded a record called "adfa" with Trilok gurtu and Ulf wakenius (guitar).  After this he moved to New York and formed another trio with Turkish keyboardist Ayden esen and drummer Kenwood dennard. This first incarnation of the Jonas hellborg group toured Europe doing concerts and tv shows but did no recording. The second version was formed by another bass player named Anders nord and electronic drummer Jaime salazar. The trio called "Jonas hellborg group" recorded and toured in 1990. The third version was formed with keyboard player Jens Johansson and drummer Anders johansson both from Yngwie malmsteens rising force. The three Swedish musicians recorded the cd called "e" which is a masterpiece of fusion and heavy-rock music. In 1990 Jens joined dio for a record and a tour.

Their first Indian-flavored disc, 1999’s Zenhouse, was a beautiful, largely serene effort that offered their personal take on the raga form. “My interest in Indian music goes back to my teenage years of being a hippie,” explains Hellborg. “In the late '60s and early '70s, everyone was into Indian music such as the Beatles, Ravi Shankar and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. When I started playing seriously, I was into John McLaughlin. Then I started playing with him and meeting all these great Indian people. So, it's been an ongoing thing for me during my whole career. The first thing that’s obvious for a Westerner is the rhythmic complexity of the music. That was my initial attraction and fascination—the method, teaching, composing and understanding of rhythms. What also really struck me was the melodic aspect of the music, as well as the intricacies, ornamentation and variations.”

Jonas Hellborg
Jonas Hellborg
Hellborg’s next effort, 2000’s Good People in Times of Evil, represented a significant leap forward in his approach towards Indian music. Along with Lane, the record featured celebrated Indian percussion master V. Selvaganesh, the son of Vikku Vinayakram, an original member of Shakti. The results were stunning. The album’s singularly inventive and exhilarating musical dialogues cemented Hellborg’s reputation as one of modern music’s most original and intriguing voices.It also laid the groundwork for the equally impressive follow-up Icon, released in 2003. For that project, Hellborg also invited Selvaganesh’s brothers, vocalist V. Umamahesh and percussionist V. Umashankar, to take part. The quintet showcased an even more seamless integration between Western and Indian influences. With its dazzling group interplay, moments of spontaneous drama and graceful, ethereal passages, Icon represents the best of what’s possible within Indian fusion.In the new century Hellborg has in addition to his ongoing work with V. Selvaganesh (latest release Kali’s Son with Sitar maestro Niladri Kumar) started a new Venture with Swedish guitar phenomenon Mattias “IA” Eklundh. Their musical vehicle is the group “Art Metal” juxtaposing Indian Music, “Jazz” with different newer forms of Metal.

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