This bassist, an axle on the wheel of the modern jazz scene that developed in Sweden in the '50s, is also sometimes known as Johan -- something of a consolation to those whose lips begin quivering when faced with the prospect of properly pronouncing Torbjorn Hultcrantz. Under any name, he rose to -- then went well beyond -- the rhythmic rules espoused by his heroes, legendary straight-ahead bassists Percy Heath, Oscar Pettiford, and Paul Chambers. This made him perfect for the combos of mainstream jazz bandleaders such as Lars Gullin in 1956. A resulting fervor that Hultcrantz described as a "sheer love of jazz" also inspired him to ditch the rest of his university career.
Hultcrantz didn't actually pick up the bass until he was 18 years old; his piano-teaching mother had started him out on keyboards about a decade previous to that. According to these age statistics, Hultcrantz had only a few years of experience on his bass axe when he began gigging as a jazzman. Recordings with Gullin, Ake Persson, the Jazz Club 57 band, and others document his rising status among Scandinavian rhythm sections. His discography also includes meetings with visiting American players in a wide range of jazz styles, accompanying bebop pianist Bud Powell as well as participating in novel world music projects helmed by multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry. The bassist also participated in historic early groups featuring revolutionary tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler.