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Swedish clarinet legend dies

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17:55 CET+01:00
Swedish jazz legend Putte Wickman has died at the age of 81. He was one of the world's leading clarinettists, a status which few on the international jazz scene would contest.

Wickman, whose real name was Hans Olof, was until shortly before his death still active as a musician, giving concerts, often in churches, every year. The technique and tone was still of the highest class, as was the well-pressed suit with a white handkerchief in the breast pocket.

Putte Wickman grew up in Borlänge, where his parents hoped he would become a lawyer. He nagged them to allow him to go to high school in Stockholm instead of the local town of Falun. When he arrived in the capital he still did not know what jazz was. As he said in an interview many years later, he was probably the only fifteen year old who did not.

Since he did not have access to a piano in Stockholm, he was given a clarinet by his mother as a Christmas present - a life changing event, as it turned out, as by then he had started to hang out with "the worst elements in the class - those with jazz records".

Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman were the role models for the young Dalecarlian, who, already in 1944, had turned to music full time. He was taken on as band leader at Stockholm's Nalen and in 1945 the newly-founded Expressen described him as the country's foremost clarinet player. He had never taken a lesson on the instrument.

He led his own band at Nalen for eleven years and during the 1960s he ran the big band at Gröna Lund, and at Puttes, the club he part-owned, at Hornstull.

In interviews in his later years it was clear that he rated his church performances very highly. He was especially proud of the fact that the composer Sven-David Sandström wrote a clarinet concerto for him.

Putte Wickman was a member of the Royal Musical Academy.

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