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Palle Danielsson, 1946-2024

Palle Danielsson, 1946-2024

Photo of Palle Danielsson from the private ECM archives.

Palle Danielsson, the great Swedish bassist, has died, aged 77. Born into a musical family in Stockholm in 1946, he studied violin as a child, switching to double bass in his teens, taking classes at Sweden’s Royal Academy and rounding off his formative musical education with hands-on experience at the famed Gyllene Cirkeln (Golden Circle) club, where he accompanied visiting American jazz players. In 1965, aged just 19, he got to play with Bill Evans, an early musical highlight.

By the time Palle came into ECM’s orbit in 1974 with Jan Garbarek and Bobo Stenson, he was very much a complete player, a melodically imaginative, warm-toned bassist, with a great sense of drive. Never much interested in being a bandleader or even a featured soloist his capacity to anchor and inspire a band, working creatively inside the total group context, was second to none – and his impeccable label discography speaks for itself. He can be heard on many recordings now regarded as classics, with the Garbarek-Stenson Quartet (Witchi-Tai-ToDansere), Keith Jarrett (BelongingMy SongNude AntsPersonal MountainsSleeper), Enrico Rava (The Pilgrim and The Stars, The Plot), Edward Vesala (Satu), Collin Walcott with Don Cherry (Grazing Dreams), Charles Lloyd (Fish Out of Water), Peter Erskine’s trio with John Taylor (You Never KnowTime BeingAs It IsJuni), and Tomasz Stanko’s tribute to Krzysztof Komeda (Litania). Albums beyond broad definitions of jazz included Anouar Brahem’s Khomsa, Dino Saluzzi’s Responsorium and two recordings with Lena Willemark and Ale Möller – Nordan and Agram – which cast Nordic folk ballads in a new light and opened them up to fresh improvising possibilities. 

Whatever the context, Palle Danielsson gave his best energies to it. As Manfred Eicher notes, “With his very special sense of soulfulness and precision, and his determination to serve the whole band sound, Palle always seemed able to illuminate the music and to lift it to the next level.”

— Steve Lake

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