The Ystad Jazz Festival was packed with performances so tightly scheduled that time for blogging—and sleeping— was at a premium. Here are impressions of a few of the events.
In the splendor of the 19th century Ystad Theater, back-to-back concerts by the quartets of tenor saxophonists Joshua Redman and Charles Lloyd offered contrasting approaches to modern mainstream jazz.
Ebullient, Redman led his troops through three of his compositions and one by pianist Aaron Goldberg before he put his stamp on an American classic. After opening with “I’ll Go Mine,” Redman’s body language kicked in on “What We Do.” For the rest of the concert , his bobbing, weaving and spontaneous knee lifts served as visual counterpoint to the music. “Come What May” featured a Reuben Rogers bass solo of exceptional harmonic continuity. The rhythmic understanding between Rogers, Goldberg and drummer Gregory Hutchison gives the Redman quartet the buoyancy that was apparent throughout the concert, even on slower pieces. Goldberg opened his “Shad” alone in an introduction that was reflective but nonetheless set the atmosphere for the wild waltz-time adventure that developed.
With canny strategy, following four originals that challenged his listeners, Redman played the unadorned verse and first chorus of “Stardust,” one of the purest of all melodies. After that, the crowd was open to a treatment of the piece that sometimes verged on free jazz. “Curlicue,” a blues with altered harmonies, followed, then “Stagger Bear.” Redman said the piece was inspired by a dream he had about a drunk Teddy Bear. “Don’t ask,” he said. The encore was Dizzy Gillespie’s “Bebop” at a pace as fast as—maybe faster than—Gillespie’s original recording. The young veteran Hutchison dazzled the audience with his solo on “Bebop,” indeed, with his solo work throughout the concert.
Charles Lloyd opened his concert with the quartet playing what sounded like simultaneous improvisation, his beautiful tone floating above the rhythm section. Joe Sanders’ hefty bass sound and precise attack set up a transition into a blues dominated by Lloyd’s keening tenor saxophone. When he wasn’t playing, Lloyd moved around the stage, often stationing himself behind pianist Gerald Clayton and listening intently. Like Redman’s, Lloyd’s body language is an apparently unconscious aspect of his performance. Sometimes, he simply stands, weaving or swaying slightly. He announced the titles of none of the tunes. Lloyd said, in fact, not a word all evening. What I can refer to only as a flute thing in ¾ found him matching the heat of an exceptionally hot rhythm section. Sanders and young Justin Brown demonstrated the importance of bass-drum relations, obviously playing to and for one another, smiling and nodding in mutual approval. Back on tenor sax, Lloyd played abstractions decorated with Clayton piano interjections. The audience demonstrated its acceptance and approval of Lloyd’s curiously edgy yet relaxing music with a standing ovation and typical European unison handclaps that rang through the theater for minutes on end.
In an Ystad park, Gunhild Carling led a big band composed primarily of her family members. She sang, shimmied, strutted and played trumpet, trombone, flute and bagpipes. Between numbers she delivered a nonstop stream of Swedish patter. Although her breathless pacing and fervor sometimes bordered on the absurd, Ms. Carling’s instrumental solos were substantial improvisations. On bagpipes, she played a blues solo notable for content, pacing and phrasing. In a piece of shtick straight out of 1920s vaudeville, she did the splits as she executed a downward trombone glissando, but her plunger mute solo on the next number was an accurate impression of Duke Ellington’s great trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton. Several members of the band played solos that reflected the swing era and edged on bebop. The Carling Big Band delivers credible jazz in the context of easily digestible comic entertainment.
(Carling photo by Markus Fägersten)
With her quartet, the young tenor saxophonist Ida Karlsson dipped into the legacy of John Coltrane and other post-bop musicians who came to prominence in the 1960s. Their music was equally based in the northern European reserve and subsurface power of Jan Garbarek and other Nordic artists who record for the ECM label. In the photo below, l to r, Gunnar Åkerhielm, Josef Karnebäck, Ms. Karlsson, Kristoffer Rostedt.