Swedish-born Bassist Palle Danielsson Dies at 77


​Swedish-born bassist Palle Danielsson (1946–2024) played with a deep, resonant and endlessly warm tone.

(Photo: Jochen Mönch)

Palle Danielsson, a celebrated Swedish bass player who worked with a Who’s Who of international jazz musicians over a 60-year career, died May 18 at his home in Åkers styckebruk, Sweden. He was 77.

His death was announced in a statement by his sister, pianist-composer Monica Dominique, who said that he had died “after a period of illness.”

Danielsson was best known for his membership in pianist Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet, a late-1970s, transatlantic ensemble that was credited with bridging the gap between American jazz and its more classical- and folk-influenced European counterpart. By the time he joined that band at 28, though, Danielsson was already a seasoned veteran, having played professionally since he was 15 with a dizzying array of talents from around the world. His resume included work with Bill Evans, Ben Webster, Lee Konitz, Carla Bley, Bobo Stenson, Jan Garbarek and Svend Asmussen in addition to Jarrett.

He also mastered multiple styles of jazz, from swing to bebop to free, and accompanied big bands, combos and vocalists. While Danielsson recorded a handful of albums under his own name, he vastly preferred to work as an accompanist, in the process building a reputation on a global scale.

In every circumstance, Danielsson plied what the British pianist Gareth Williams called “one of the most instantly identifiable bass sounds of all time”: deep, resonant and endlessly warm.

Nils Paul Danielsson was born Oct. 15, 1946, in Stockholm. A member of a musical family, he began playing harmonica at the age of 2. He switched to violin at 8, then at about 13 to the double bass, which coincided with his infatuation with jazz. Within two years, he had developed to the point where he could play professionally.

Enrolling in 1962 at the Royal Academy of Music, Danielsson began finding work on the bandstand at Stockholm’s famous Golden Circle jazz club, where he frequently supported famous international jazz stars as they passed through. This included Evans, with whom Danielsson played in November 1965. (Portions of their work together were recorded and released in 2007 as Live In Stockholm 1965.) The work continued through and after his tenure at the Royal Academy, during which time he worked with Steve Kuhn, Lee Konitz and George Russell. He also became a regular collaborator with Swedish jazz pillars such as trombonist Eje Thelin, pianist Stenson, saxophonist Garbarek and drummer Jon Christensen. Stenson and Christenson were among the musicians with whom he recorded his own debut record, Club Jazz 5, in 1971.

Danielsson’s work on Garbarek and Stenson’s 1974 album WItchi-Tai-To (also featuring Christensen) brought the bassist to the attention of ECM Records founder and producer Manfred Eicher, who in turn brought him to the attention of Jarrett. Danielsson, Garbarek and Christensen joined the pianist that year and continued working with him until 1979, becoming known as the Keith Jarrett European Quartet (or the Belonging Quartet, after the band’s first album), a key ensemble in jazz of the late ’70s.

He continued freelancing during that time, doing work with German free-jazz trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava and Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, among others. In the ’80s, after the Jarrett quartet disbanded, he spent time in bands led by Bley, saxophonist Charles Lloyd, drummer Peter Erskine and Italian pianist Michel Petrucciani. He also remained a stalwart of the Stockholm and greater Scandinavian jazz scenes, working with all comers, although Garbarek, Stenson and Christensen remained particular long-term compatriots. In 1994, after a 23-year interval, he recorded a second album as a leader, Contra Post.

Although his reputation among musicians was unimpeachable, he was never as famous in Sweden as his sister (though she herself was a consistent evangelist on his behalf). The siblings worked together fairly frequently, most recently on 2012’s Togetherness. (In 2019, they announced they were recording a new album, Siblings, though it has not yet been released.)

Danielsson’s last appearance on record was with Gareth Williams on 2021’s Short Stories. In 2023, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Swedish Jazz Association.

In addition to Domnique, Danielsson is survived by his longtime partner, artist Ulla Lööf. DB

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