Who would have thought that Sweden might become a hotbed of contemporary jazz? The concept may seem a strange one to those steeped in the music’s legacy but the Swedish production duo of Magnus Zingmark and Oscar Simonsson has been rewriting the history books. Their recently released album Waltz For Koop proves that Stockholm can compete with London and New York in its jazz credentials.
Zingmark explains from his Stockholm apartment why Koop combines swinging ’50s bop with electronic production, and why critics the world over are acclaiming this duo as the saviors of jazz. Koop have the kind of sun-kissed, sharp-suited, beatnik jazz sound that contemplates melody, midnight vocals, and five-minute double bass workouts.
Zingmark explains that he and Simonsson have been based in Stockholm for the last seven years, although they both originate from the Swedish university town of Uppsala. The town’s population numbers around 160,000 and is a one-hour drive from Stockholm. The duo met around 1992 after Zingmark had been DJ’ing a mix of jazz, Latin, and hip-hop tunes in a local club. Simonsson was playing with a jazz quintet but had just purchased his first keyboard and sampler and was looking to expand his musical horizons. Both discovered that they had very similar tastes and decided to collaborate on their own music.
The result of their experiments flowered with the use of borrowed equipment and culminated in a three-song EP for U.K.-based Clear Records. An album was meant to follow but Swedish label Diesel stepped in with more money and more musical clout.
“That first EP was very diverse,” states Zingmark. “Both Oscar and I had been involved in music for some time and were very much into experimenting. The sound then was less organic and more experimental, whereas with the new album we wanted to focus on songwriting and going back to basics.”
An album entitled Sons Of Koop followed hot on the heels of the EP. The album was signed to Universal in London and then the problems began. Koop had been signed before the PolyGram/Universal merger. The duo had released an album by the end of 2000 but Koop was stuck in a contract they were desperate to get out of. It wasn’t until 2001 that Universal released them from their contract, but fortunately noted German label JCR was waiting in the wings.<