Beat Funktion, a Swedish six-piece improvisational group initially formed for a spontaneous one-time night club jazz gig in 2007, later became the first-ever Swedish jazz-funk band in history to top the American and Canadian jazz radio charts in the summer of 2014. Today, the band has established themselves internationally as one of the grooviest and most productive improvisational jazz-funk ensembles from the Scandinavian countries.
Ever since realizing the potential of the band’s music in 2007, jazz pianist, composer, arranger and producer Daniel Lantz became Beat Funktion’s chief composer and artistic leader, sculpting their musical approach and powerhouse sound. The members, hand-picked, are regarded as the elite among Swedish jazz soloists, such as trumpetist Karl Olandersson, sax player Olle Thunström, guitarist Johan Öijen, bassist Pal Johnson and drum prodigy Jon Eriksson. Commonly, percussionists join the band for more nuanced performances. Today, Beat Funktion’s music is in essence an upbeat fusion of early ’70s funk, groove, jazz, soul, disco, jazz rock, pop and afro-beat, keeping a vintage touch in sound and style, with a dash of psychedelia. While fundamentally an instrumental band, their music also presents vocals on occasion.
Their way of musically combining jazz improvisation with a variety of commercial genres enabled their music to quickly reach out to a broad range of listeners across different genres and generations. After their debut-album The Plunge (2010) had received praise worldwide with agents and reviewers of jazz, funk, soul and DJs, they got signed for management to Musication Incorporated in Kansas, laying the groundwork for launching a US tour. Their 2nd album Moon Town (2013) was met with considerable enthusiasm and rave reviews in the US as it stayed among the top 10 on the US jazz radio charts for no less than 15 weeks in the summer of 2013. It even charted on the Canadian charts among the Top 5 and made it briefly into the US rock charts and traditional JazzWeek charts. At the same time, Beat Funktion’s third album, Voodooland was commissioned by legendary Japanese funk-label P-Vine, a limited edition that has rapidly acquired a cult status among Japanese DJs and groove collectors. As the band changed their management to Eggman Global Artists in Las Vegas, Voodooland had its highly anticipated release in the US in the spring of 2014, where it knocked out all competition from major labels and artists on the US jazz charts; not only did it linger on the charts for 16 impressive weeks, but also rocketed to #1 for three consecutive weeks above major labels and artists, and stayed among the top ten on the Canadian charts for eight weeks. The album became the 9th most played album in 2014 on the American CMJ jazz charts, and was also featured on the cover of CMJ Music Journal next to another Swedish export First Aid Kit as the biggest gainers at that time. In Sweden, Beat Funktion became one of only a few all-instrumental bands ever to perform on the non-commercial live radio show Musikplats Stockholm P4.
Following the success story of Voodooland, the band’s fourth album, Mandy’s Secret, saw its global release in late September of 2014, timely to coincide with the band’s first US tour. Ten fresh compositions penned by Daniel Lantz combined with high production values in the hands of co-producer Mats Björke, pianist from famed rock band Mando Diao, made this riveting album one of the band’s best. It peaked at #3 on the American CMJ jazz charts and #1 on the Canadian Earshot charts, lingering for a total of 21 consecutive weeks, and was accompanied by the release of 5 official music videos, as well as the release of Live At Fasching, Beat Funktion’s first full live concert on film, released on YouTube in the spring of 2015.
Beat Funktion’s November tour of the US in 2014 had the band play at the legendary fusion venue The Baked Potato in Los Angeles, and a Las Vegas showcase session led to the affilliation with famed rapper Damon Elliott, son of Dionne Warwick and producer of global stars like Beyoncé, Pink and Gwen Stefani, who in turn became a featured guest on their fifth album, Olympus, released in June 2015. Another collaboration with producer Mats Björke, the album is the first time the band features sung vocals by guest performers, and in addition to Damon Elliott (the song “King Minos”), it showcases South African soul singer Sani Gamedze (on the song “It’s About Time”) and Swedish pop singer Rebecca Laakso (on “Where’s The Sunshine?”), thereby expanding across the genre boundaries. Olympus is the band’s most elaborate concept album so far, its music themed entirely on legends and characters of Greek mythology. Like Mandy’s Secret, it peaked at #1 on the Canadian charts and at #2 on the US charts, remaining in the Top 40 for 16 weeks in the summer of 2015, becoming the 12th most played album on the CMJ jazz charts for 2015. Beat Funktion and Olympus was further nominated at the Scandinavian Soul Music Awards 2016 in four categories: Best Album, Best Band, Best Producer (Daniel Lantz & Mats Björke) and Best Newcomer.
The band’s sixth album, titled Green Man, had a Swedish release in September of 2016 and an international and US and Canada release in January 2017. It is the band’s most ‘vocal’ album to date, featuring no less than eight guest vocalists: Swedish/Russian jazz star Viktoria Tolstoy, American jazz phenomenon Alicia Olatuja, rapper Damon Elliott (returning from Olympus), Swedish/Iranian pop diva Jasmine Kara, Swedish hiphop/soul queen Adée, Swedish Idol 2014 contestant Matilda Gratte, Swedish jazz and blues legend Claes Janson and African world/fusion performer Deodato Siquir. The release was met with crtitical and popular acclaim outside of the band’s regular jazz-funk audience, and was accompanied by the publication of 7 live concert videos and 3 official music videos, as well as the band’s first-ever digital-only release of three singles, Maja, Hayweather and Rio, songs that could not fit into the Green Man album. In connection with the launch, every guest artist was given a personal portrait and interview in the 9-episode documentary called Exploring Green Man, available worldwide on YouTube. As part of the release tour, Beat Funktion was invited back to the popular live radio show P4 Musikplats Stockholm together with guests Viktoria Tolstoy and Matilda Gratte, and also performed at the prestigious Stockholm Jazz Festival, the Hijazz Music Festival and renowned venue Katalin And All That Jazz.
At the time of writing this, in the spring of 2017, Beat Funktion is set to tour Europe, including the visit to several festivals. The band is also in early preparations for their 7th album, yet untitled, which is most likely going to be an all-instrumental live studio project, and their 4th collaboration with co-producer Mats Björke. Stay tuned…
KARL OLANDERSSON : TRUMPET
Ever since he was discovered by renowned jazz drummer Ronnie Gardiner, Karl Olandersson established himself as one of Scandinavia’s leading jazz trumpet soloists, noted for his impeccable timing, blazing technique and improvisational imagination. His regular appearances in national television and tours in Scandinavia, Europe and Asia has made him a much sought-after soloist in countless constellations. He has so far released three albums in his own name, all of which have been praised by media and audiences worldwide.
OLLE THUNSTRÖM : TENOR SAX
Olle Thunström, influenced by musicians like Wayne Shorter and Dexter Gordon, has developed a highly personal sound on his tenor sax, tinged with blues and funky attitude. His musical training at the Malmö Music Conservatory made him one of the busiest freelance musicians in the 90s within jazz, soul and funk as well as stage orchestras and big bands. He has worked with Etta Cameron, Bo Stief and Maria Schneider and has explored the big band format extensively as a leader, musician and arranger. He has appeared as a sideman on a range of notable Swedish jazz recordings.
JOHAN ÖIJEN : ELECTRIC GUITAR
Guitarist Johan Öijen has received praise from international jazz stars such as Quincy Jones and Frank Gambale for his melodic, rhythmic och inventive improvisational skills. His discography includes two albums with his fusion band SubFive, with which he has toured extensively in Germany, Austria, Taiwan, China and Japan. He has collaborated with notable artists such as Deborah Brown, Johann Asmundsson of Icelandic Mezzoforte, David O’Higgins, Lasse Lindgren and Ray Andersson.
DANIEL LANTZ : KEYBOARDS
With training in Germany, the United Kingdom and Sweden behind him and musical roots in genres as diverse as jazz, classical, folk music and rock, pianist Daniel Lantz has developed a vast range in his musical expression and been able to establish himself not only as a jazz soloist, but also as a composer, arranger and producer. Over the years he has worked as a freelance artist with the topmost elite of Swedish jazz musicians – Lennart Åberg, Bosse Broberg and Roland Keijser – as well as in the the United Kingdom with musicians like Spike Wells and Matty Eeles. Aside from his mission as Beat Funktion’s keyboardist, chief composer and artistic leader, he has released three albums with his acoustic jazz piano trio.
PAL JOHNSON : ELECTRIC BASS
Bass player Pal Johnson’s skill and extreme versatility, both on electric bass and double bass, has earned him a 30 year-long international career as a sideman with artists such as Kenny Wheeler, Walter Bishop, Arne Domnérus, Scott Hamilton and Nils Landgren. He has performed at high profile venues such as the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Northsea Jazz Festival and Pori Jazz Festival and is an often enlisted studio musician. He is currently a sponsored artist by EBS, East and Velvet and produces bass samples for Clavia.
JON ERIKSSON : DRUMS
Drum prodigy Jon Eriksson, the youngest member of the band, is a trained musician from the College of Music in Örebro as well as the Music Conservatory of Rio, Brazil, and he is currently perfecting his skills as a studio producer of pop and electronic music. His allegiance to jazz, soul, funk and house and imaginative rhythmic precision has quickly turned him into a popular and multi-faceted musician, in the studio as well as on stage.