Sven-Åke Johansson, born in 1943 in Mariestad (Sweden), is one of the style-defining drummers of the German free jazz era of the 60s and 70s. From the 80s onwards, he pursued an artistic path largely independent of institutions and groups as a music performer in the circles of fine arts and new music. Among other things, more than fifty record releases, a number of music theater pieces, radio plays, pictorial works and a lively touring life are among his oeuvre.
It’s hard to know where to begin with percussionist and polymath Sven-Åke Johansson: Is he a bebopdrummer? A visual artist? A Fluxus-style madman? Actually he’s all of the above and more, and over the decades he’s never confined himself to any single approach or discipline. Like many early exponents of European free jazz–he appears on key recordings by Peter Brötzmann, Manfred Schoof, and the Globe Unity Orchestra, among others–Johansson is rooted in bebop, and he’s continued to carry ist torch in bands with adventurous musicians half his age (he plays with trumpeter Axel Dörner in the suberb Cool Quartett, for instace). But he also acts or delivers texts with musical accompaniment–on the recent Für Paul Klee (Jazzwerkstatt), he recites the painter’s poems over music written by Johansson and his bandmates. He’s also adept at gestural free improvisation, as he proves on the 2012 trio album Grosse Gartenbauaustellung (Olof Bright), with Dörner and inside-the-piano tinkerer Andrea Neumann–he trades abstract squiggles and terse percussive statements with his partner’s stabs of sound. Over the years Johansson has made some classic solo percussion records, including 1972’s Schlingerland and 2010’s Cymbals in the Night (Broken Research). It’s a context where his absurdist humor really shines through: I saw him give a solo concert in Västerås, Sweden, in 2010, where he played his drum kit like a child tackling an outsize toy, combining hamfisted mock amateurism and exited wonder. At one point he used cucumbers as drumsticks and pressed his cymbals into service as vegetable cutters–he scatterd slivers of cucumber around the stage, then thoughtfully tasted a slice himself. A Text by Peter Margasak (2012)
Sven-Åke Johansson (f. 1943 i Mariestad) kompositör och musiker, lever sedan 1968 i Berlin.
Han har varit stilbildande inom den europeiska fria improvisationsmusiken. Tillsammans med Alexander von Schlippenbach, Peter Kowald och Peter Brötzmann utvecklade han den europeiska versionen av frijazzen på 60-talet. Mest känd är han som virtuos slagverkare, men han framför även egna sånger, fritt improviserande, till eget ackompanjemang på dragspel. Han har skrivit musik för traditionella sättningar men även verk för dragspelsorkester, konsertcymbaler och 1993 ett solostycke för kartonger. Under senare år har Johansson deltagit i flera utställningar där hans provo-kativa performancekonst nått en ny publik. Thomas Millroth
Playing brushes on a snare, he sang „I cover the Waterfront“, and more poignantly, with Dadaisten poignancy, „I Didn’t Know What Time it Was.“ Because we all knew what time it was: birthdays bring us one step closer to death. So why not scat to death, scat at death, spit at death, open your mouth and say „AAAAAHHHHH!“ Andrew Choate, Los Angeles 2015
Enjoying the Sounds of Chuffing Divas Johansson has had it figured for some time now that what counts isn't colorfully enameled metal and high horsepower under the hood, but rather slow chugging and clanking. And so the good old tractors chugged and clanked for thirty-five minutes. Sometimes together, sometimes also alone. There was, for example, a solo for Belarus. Just like real divas, the twelve monsters, selected especially for their unique voices, let off ample steam, but the exhaust was no problem. The big barn doors remained wide open for the entirety of the performance. The visitors once more enjoyed an experience of a special kind. By the way, it was the first time that Johansson's motor tractors had the opportunity to chuff and clamor, beat and stammer in a "concert hall" and not in the openness of a landscape. From the Ruppiner Anzeiger, 10.5.1999
M.N.D. (Moderne Nordeuropäische Dorfmusik) "Experiments in Oscillation' In the foyer of the Kunsthalle, after meditative and transcendental music, we became acquainted with 'free music'. Let's just come right out and say it: no matter what idea these three protagonists with their diverse instruments had with regard to what the term 'free music' means, it was definitely free of any and all artistic responsibility. Even if the program flyer clarified that it was simply an 'experiment with dynamic oscillations', that's not any sort of alibi for a monotone, two-hour phonic slaughter. 'Continuity as form' (as another program slogan went) requires acoustic sensibility, too."G.F. Review from the Hamburger Abendblatt, 2.5.1972