He abandoned his studies to play jazz full time, and worked with many American jazz musicians, becoming the first European to be invited to join the Jazz at the Philharmonic package. The years 1961 to 1968 produced a string of classic albums, which would help define his style of re-imagining traditional European folk tunes via jazz and the avant garde. These included Jazz på svenska and Jazz på Ryska (Jazz in Russian) which are both available in an expanded form on CD. Jazz på Ungerska (Jazz in Hungarian) together with Danish Jazz violinist Svend Asmussen is the third album in that series. Jazz in Swedish comprises variations on sixteen Swedish folk songs with Georg Riedel playing acoustic bass.
During this period, Johansson also made several recordings with Radiojazzgruppen. The Grammy award winning albums Musik genom Fyra Sekler (Music from the Past Centuries) builds on traditional Swedish melodies, but this time uses larger groups of musicians, and 300.000. There were also two trio sets, 8 Bitar and Innertrio, which have been reissued as a single CD. In November 1968 Jan Johansson died in a car crash on his way to a concert in a church in Jönköping, Sweden. His sons, Anders Johansson and Jens Johansson, run Heptagon Records which keeps their father's recordings available. Read more on Last.fm.
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