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Swedish jazz singerby Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2005 Todd S. Jenkins
Monica Zetterlund, one of Scandinavia’s finest jazz singers, was killed in an accidental fire in her Stockholm apartment on May 12, 2005. She was 67 years old.
Born Monica Nilsson on September 20, 1937, she made her professional debut with her father’s band as a teenager, then worked with bandleader Ib Glindeman and saxman Arne Domnerus. She married her first husband in the 1950s and had one daughter, actress Eva-Lena Zetterlund. In 1958 the singer cut her debut album, Swedish Sensation, on which she revealed the influence of American jazz vocalists like Anita O’Day. (Spring Is Here, on the Dragon label, is a collection of her early recordings.)
For a time, Zetterlund was one of Europe’s most respected vocalists, singing jazz in her native language and occasionally English. Like Norwegian reedman Jan Garbarek, Zetterlund liked working Scandinavian folk motifs into jazz settings. After appearing on “The Steve Allen Show” in 1960, Zetterlund gained more work opportunities in the United States and elsewhere.
Among the more famous artists with whom she worked were Zoot Sims, Harry Belafonte, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra (It Only Happens Every Time, Inner City, 1977), bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, and pianist Bill Evans, with whose trio she made perhaps her best-known recording, Waltz for Debbie, in 1964 (issued on CD by Polygram, 2003).
Zetterlund was also a renowned actress in her homeland, appearing in over a dozen movies, television shows and plays. She continued to perform live and record up until 2000, when she made her final album, For Lester and Billie (Phontastic). The spinal deformity of scoliosis had affected her for years, restricting her work opportunities and eventually forcing her into retirement.
Zetterlund is survived by her daughter and her partner, Magnus Roger.
Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.