My first night in Stockholm, Red Mitchell took me to an all-night jam session at Gamlingen, a jazz club in Old Town (shown left, from a 1949 postcard). It looks like a painting, even when you're standing in the middle of it. Linked by several bridges to the north and south, there is water everywhere. This is why Stockholm is called The Venice of the North in Europe. Up until the 1600s, the entire city was on three small islands. It's an incredible place with ancient churches, cobblestone walking streets, cafes, restaurants, jazz clubs, stores filled with antiques and Swedish art, and much more. Don't miss it. It's called Gamla Stan in Swedish. Happy, friendly people walked the streets, and they all seemed so tall and beautiful! It was the most meticulous city I had ever seen. You know how certain moments just stand out in your life? Well, this night is one of those. And of course, it was during the time of the Midnight Sun. It doesn't get any better than that. There was a long stairway down to the jazz club. It felt like we were walking down into a dungeon in an old castle. I could hear the music the entire time and knew that I was in for a treat. So many musicians were in Stockholm playing in the festival that week. That night I had already heard Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Steve Kuhn, Bill Evans, and many more incredible big names from America. Red introduced me as a singer to the musicians at our table, and then the quartet asked me to join them and sing a few songs. These were obviously some of the best Swedish jazz musicians, and Paul Weeden was playing guitar (a great American musician who moved to Norway). After I returned to the table, Rolf Eriksson, the trumpet player, came and sat next to me and blurted out, “What are you doing in Stockholm? Do you live here? How would you like to be the singer with my 18-piece jazz orchestra with the best musicians in Stockholm? You would get to travel all over, paid!”
I sat there dumfounded. It had never occurred to me to look for a job singing in Stockholm. My mother lived 10 hours away by train. I was returning to Lund. But how could anyone turn such an offer down? Music was my first love. “There's always the University of Stockholm,” I said to myself. I wondered how my mother would feel about this, but she was always supportive. She was my best friend. Rolf (left) was an outstanding trumpet player and a well-known Swedish representative in the international jazz world. When he lived in America, he was a featured soloist with Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Woody Herman, to name a few. And years later he moved to Germany to play with Max Gregor, who was one of biggest orchestras on television in Europe. Everyone loved Rolf. The thought of returning to Lund or America vanished (which wasn't hard to do at the time with VietNam and Nixon). The fact that my mother lived in Sweden was a major bonus. Within a month, Stockholm was my home. We began touring the country. Rolf Eriksson's Big Band and Rebecca (that's me). Even changed my name. It was an incredible time. But more incredible was the first time I saw Sven (left), which was to become one the most fateful moments of my life. It was Sven who later had a dream that reversed my direction and brought Yoga to me out of nowhere. He was one of the 18 musicians in Rolf's orchestra, and I was sure we had met already. Meanwhile, I was enthralled with the city of Stockholm. With waterways and bridges everywhere, the city stretches out into the archipelago, where there are more than 24,000 granite islands and skerries that continue all the way to the Baltic Sea. It's a magical, modern city with an ancient history. In fact, I was shocked by the fact that Sweden had a much higher standard of living than the United States. For some reason, I had believed that Europe would be like going back in time. The Old Country and all that ... It became just the opposite for me—it was like stepping into the future! This is a typical, quaint cottage at the water's edge of a small island, where you can experience the sun shining day and night. It never sinks below the horizon during the Swedish Midnight Sun. If you plan to visit Stockholm, do it during the summer. If possible, do that out in the archipelago in a boat! I guarantee that you will never see that anywhere else, not quite like that.