In 1946, the entrepreneur and inventor Gunnar Ullvén (1902 - 1989) started a successful music business and instrument production in the small town of Uddevalla on Sweden's west coast. In collaboration with professional musicians, Ullvén developed and manufactured cymbals, drumsticks, Popy valve lubricant and mutes for brass instrument. His Breakthrough came in May 20th 1958, when Gunnar Ullvén met the world- famous trumpeter John Birk's "Dizzy" Gillespie and Roy ”Little Jazz” Elridge at the jazz club Nalen in Stockholm. Dizzy & Roy went there after a concert at the Stockholm Concert Hall, with the " Jazz at the Philharmonic". Mr Gillespie instantly fell in love with Ullven's trumpet mutes made in Chrome Plated Copper so much that he always used these mutes.
DIZZY GILLESPIE TRUMPET - MUFTI MUTE
Mr Ullvén and Dizzy made an agreement that the mutes came to bear his name and be equal to his "Be-Bop Sound" for the rest of his formidable career. This ended with him posthumously being awarded "The Polar Music Prize" in Stockholm in 1993, where Wynton Marsalis received it in his place.
The same happened with Roy and Ullvén, they made an agreement about the ”Popy” valve lubricant,
as can be seen on the old ad poster.
POPY LUBRICANT AD
The 5th of June 1971 the trumpet giant and bandleader Maynard Ferguson played a concert in Sweden with his Orchestra. It was held at the Liseberg amusement Park in Göteborg/Gothenburg not far from the resident town of Gunnar Ullvén, who didn't hesitate to go there with some mutes for mr Ferguson to try. Maynard and his entire Brass section liked the superb qualities of the mutes a lot and was also happy to put his name on them. The story goes, according to Maynard's manager mr Ernie Garside, that the mutes were in white painted Aluminum, and that mr Ullvén suggested the to call them "The White series, as played by Maynard Ferguson". Mr Ullvén who was completely foreign to racism and similar ideas, did not understand that this might not be perfectly suitable or politically correct, and of course mr Fergusons reaction to this was, - No No! you can not call them that!. Mr Ullvén went home and came back the next day with a complete set of Brown mutes instead for MF Orchestra to use, which they did, at least with the "British band" says Ernie Garside, funny story.
After that mr Ullvén made the mutes in several colors, but the Aluminum mutes always had the slogan, "as played by Maynard Ferguson”.
Of course, these mutes became best sellers in the musical world market, and Ullvén was mentioned among leading professional brass musicians as one of the world's best mutes, with its characteristic sound.
Later on, around 1990, Dizzy Gillespie gave his friend Maynard Ferguson one of his own private Ullvén Chrome Plated Copper Bebop mutes (the last one). Maynard loved this mute and used it frequently. As a curiosity, in 1992 the Maynard Ferguson Band did a show in Detroit where Maynard performed and then his band backed up Al Hirt, Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Eckstine.
The photo shows Dizzy and Maynard discussing and testing the Ullvén Dizzy Bebop mute.
That pic was taken during a rehearsal with Maynard’s band. It was an historic event, that included Maynard sitting in with Willie Nelson the next night at the same venue, playing country and western music. Who would've believed it! Photo by courtesy of RD Foster.
Maynard loved that mute Lasse!
Congratulations on reviving the company.
Best of luck.
Maynard Ferguson Band
Maynard Ferguson playing his Ullvén - Dizzy BOP mute in 1992
This mute is now to be seen at the Sherman Jazz museum together with a letter from Dizzy to Maynard, reading:
This is the only one I have besides the one I use (but I can’t find the felt, nor the cup that goes in the end).
I think Giardenelli can fix it.
COURTESY OF BILL COLLINS SHERMAN JAZZ MUSEUM
After Gunnar Ullvén's death, he was succeeded by Dennis Mattson, John Fredrik and Nicklas Grönvall who resumed production in 1991 and operated it internationally for about ten years. During that period, the range was expanded with the help of two Swedish internationally known brass musicians. Trombonist Nils Landgren and trumpeter Lars "Lasse" Lindgren, who both designed mutes for their musical perception and their respective instruments.
THE MUTES ARE HANDMADE AND THE METHOD IS METAL SPINNING. A DIFFICULT PROCESS THAT REQUIRES GOOD CRAFTSMANSHIP.
THE PICTURES SHOW TULLE HERMANSSON AND HIS SON MIKAEL HERMANSSON AT THE ÄLGARÅS METALLHANTVERK (MOOSRIDGE METALL HANDCRAFT WORKSHOP)
But then around the turn of the millennium 2000, production was put in a so-called mothballs bag. The company changed and the emphasis was on something else.
Offers from major international mute producers to take over the company were rejected. Ullvén mutes were handmade Swedish products with a unique sound and should, if possible, remain so. The mutes with the Ullvén brand could then only be found on the secondary market, and then often at very high prices. Until now!