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Jonas Hellborg

With that kind of a name how could Jonas Hellborg be anything but flamboyant? He’s a rock musician who created a special jazz with improvisational daring and originality. A product of Sweden of early 1980 vintage, his command of his instrument has been made all the more startling by his rock or punk stage presence. His slap technique, his lead lines, and his revolutionary chordal approach all served to extend his instrument’s potential.

Jonas taught himself to play the bass at the age of 12 and was deeply influenced by the rock greats of his time – Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and Deep Purple. He played mainly blues and Heavy Rock until 1972 when he heard the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s album The Inner Mounting Flame. When he was 16 Hellborg began a formal music career in jazz and classical music.

His techniques were strange to say the least, but the music he made left no one unmoved.

He stressed that he was a bass guitarist, rather than an electric bassist, but some of the techniques he was incorporating transcended guitar, too. The wider chords, for example, pointed toward a keyboard-like role for the bass.

Dissatisfied with the various rock groups he had been touring with, Hellborg turned to more challenging music and solo concerts. In 1981, he was invited to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Michael Brecker was impressed by Hellborg's playing there and introduced him to many of the jazz greats including his long-time idol John McLaughlin. Hellborg sent him some tapes of his music.

In 1982 Hellborg created his own record label, Day Eight, in order to allow himself and others to record with full artistic freedom. The first record was Hellborg's first solo bass release, The Bassic Thing. In May 1983, Hellborg joined avant-garde pianist Michael J Smith and drummer Michael Shrieve (of Santana fame) to record Day Eight's second release, All Our Steps

In 1984, at the start of Mahavishnu's US tour, Michael Shrieve introduced Hellborg to Bill Laswell. At the time Laswell was recording Deadline's Down By Law, and invited Hellborg to play on it. The next year Laswell dug Ginger Baker out of retirement in Italy , and had him play on PIL's new record. Passing through New York on tour again Hellborg also contributed to this album entitled Album.

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