Tomas Franck

Tomas and I met and started to play together in Helsingborg around 1975. I then moved to Malmö in 1976 and Tomas moved there also a year later. In Malmö we started the band Equinox that played together for 7 years. I then moved to Copenhagen in 1983 and a year later Tomas moved there too. In Copenhagen we played together mainly in Tomas Franck Quartet but also in some other settings. A few times with Jens Winther and shortly a band with Anders Bergkrantz trumpet, Kjeld Ibsen trombone, Jens Melgaard bass and Butch Lazy piano. All in all we played together for almost 17 years. Tomas grew up with a father who was a big jazz fan and started to play very early. First clarinet I think and then tenor sax later. His early influences were Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon. Later John Coltrane and others. At 16 he made a television program together with Dexter and already then played very mature. Tomas is one of the “ought to be very famous” guys but as often the biggest talents are not so good at promoting themselves. He is more known among musicians. I know of american jazz musicians when coming to play in Copenhagen asks “Is Tomas Franck playing in town tonight?” When everybody started to make CD:s hiring some american musicians, in Tomas case the americans hired him to make an album in New York. Way cooler. To me Tomas is one of the best tenor players in the world and it hurts me that when I mention his name here in Sweden most people dont know who he is, even jazz musicians! He is Swedish! Although he played with many greats and is well known in many places he ought to tour the world with the best bands. He deserves worldwide fame and recognition and if you ever get a chance to hear him play, don’t miss that opportunity. Unlike most young jazz players of today that learn to play in some academy and start with Kenny G or something equally horrible, when you hear Tomas, you get a wind of the past and something far more genuin and substantial. He plays modern and with his own voice but based on an understanding and love for jazz history. We lost contact when I left Copenhagen and have not seen each other since 1992 or 1993 but his playing lives strongly in my heart.

Malmö Percussion Ensemble – MPE

When I started at the Academy of Music in Malmö in 1976 I almost directly started to play with the ensemble since two of the members Peter Winberg and Metta Björk decided not to go on the 6 week tour to US that MPE were going to do. The ensemble was started in 1973 by Bent Lylloff that started the percussion department at the academy. For a few years we played quite a lot and besides the tour in US we also played in Poland, England, Holland and every year we used to do a tour in Sweden also. It was a great ensemble with Bent Lylloff, Lennart Gruvstedt, Peter Fältskog and Torvald Lidner and usually a sixth member also. One of the strengths of the ensemble was that the players were all very good jazz & rock drummers also. Playing Steve Reich or stuff like that were swinging. Believe it or not, but not all academy trained percussionists are necessarily very rhythmical, and definitely not swinging. One of Bent Lylloffs ideas and hopes were to get the ensemble somehow employed under “regionsmusiken” in Sweden and beside playing percussion ensemble pieces also function as a well trained team that could fill in when different symphony orchestras needed extra players. So, what happened?

Well, a new percussion ensemble named Kroumata suddenly appeared out of the blue and got this employment that Bent always dreamt of, so when we were going to book our annual Sweden tour, suddenly nobody wanted to hire us. They already hired this new ensemble Kroumata, they only cost 100 kronor for a whole day with both a workshop and a concert. Of course they had their monthly salary so only charged a symbolic cost. We had to make a living from the concerts and 100 kronor was just about enough for 3 pairs of drumsticks.

We were out of business. To be honest, I’m not sure that the ensemble would have lasted anyway since everybody in the group were very in demand as drummers and percussionists in Sweden and Denmark. Ironically we held a course for “regionsmusikens” percussion players in Malmö and the Kroumata guys filmed our concert (I think they were just about to start the ensemble), so somehow we helped stage our own death. (Timpani roll)

Am I sad that Kroumata now has to manage without a monthly salary from Rikskonserter. Nah, don’t think so. ; – )

Anyway, some of the best times in my life were the tours with MPE. We had a great time together.


After a Coltrane song. The band started as a quartet with Tomas Franck tenor sax, Peter Zadig piano, Per Nilsson bass and myself on drums, but after one rehearsal or so turned into a quintet when Håkan Broström joined the band on alto sax. I got to know Håkan when I moved to Malmö and he kept asking questions about this Tomas Franck guy who then still lived in Helsingborg. Tomas on the other hand kept asking questions about Håkan and it was interesting to see what would happen when Tomas also moved to Malmö a year later. I think for a few days they kind of measured each other out but of course, two guys like that with the same passion and talent had to become friends, and they more or less were hanging together all the time. Actually the whole band spent a lot of time together, either rehearsing, gigging or simply drinking beer at Håkans or Pers place listening to Coltrane and Canonball before going to Pilgården. Pilgården was THE place to go to at that time, always packed with people and live music, jazz music. After a few beers we always had to go up an play and no matter who was playing we always managed to take over the stage. I remember Tomas and Håkans advanced ear-training exercises. They would sit in two different rooms at the academy with a piano in each room and with the doors open so that they could hear each other. Then one of them would play a series of very difficult intervals spread across the whole keyboard range and the other would repeat it and then start a new series. They were really quite amazing. Good piano players both of them too. Håkan wrote some really beautiful songs for the band and Tomas some really good ones too.

I played so much other stuff in the percussion ensemble and with symphony orchestras and sometimes wish I had the guts to decide that I should focus on one thing, jazz, but I kind of liked both things and could not make such a decision. Trying to be both a good classical percussionist and a good jazz drummer is very hard, but my biggest problem were always that I had such a hard time saying no to a gig. I said yes to as much as I could possible fit into my schedule which in the long run is the biggest reason I don’t play anymore.

It was a lovely time with Equinox though and we had very much fun together. Sometimes rehearsing very seriously. We decided that one week we rehearsed only Wayne Shorter songs playing every day in our studio and the next week only Coltrane. I think that Tomas & Håkan were the stars of the band and on a slightly higher level than the rest of us but I really learned a lot those 7 years.

Tomas & Håkan later played in my band, the Grand Band were I wrote most of the material.

The Grand Band

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