In its publicity, the Ystad Festival did not emphasize the large number of women on its roster of artists. Perhaps that was not an oversight but a sign that gender equality in jazz has advanced to a point where it doesn’t need to be underscored. In any case, Nils Landgren’s cast of women colleagues (see the previous post) was hardly an exception during the festival’s five days. Anne Marte Eggen’s We Float quartet is three-quarters female, and there were two bands, Worlds Around and Sofia Project, without even one male on the stand.
The Dutch alto saxophonist Tineke Postma headed the adventurous group named Worlds Around (pictured above), made up of women from seven countries. They began their concert with a dark motif titled “Speech Impediment.” Bassist Linda Oh set the mood of the piece, which moved from free jazz into a structured theme so dark and brooding, it could serve as the score for one of Bertolt Brecht’s stage works. Ms. Oh, an Australian who was born in Malysia and lives in New York, soloed again to begin “Imprints,” a piece inspired by Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints.” Solos by Portuguese flugelhornist Susana Santos Silva and Swedish trombonist Karen Hammar followed. A bass ostinato over percussion by Danish drummer Michala Østergaard-Nielsen developed into a fugue that in turn led to a solo by German guitarist Sandra Hempel. Hempel’s work here, and later in “Past (Part 2),” combined heat and humor. “Different Worlds of Thought” featured Italian pianist Simona Premazzi leaning into the piece’s rich chords.
Worlds Around came into being at the suggestion of the veteran Swedish producer Ulf Rådelius and Martin Martinsson of the concert organization Musik i Syd. Encouraged by festival artistic director Jan Lundgren, they worked for a year with Ms. Postma to arrive at the right combination of musicians for the band.
Addressing the audience, Ms. Postma said, “It’s nice that we’re women, but that’s not what it’s about. We’re musicians first.” As if to confirm that tenet, in Ms. Premazzi’s “Later Ago” Ms. Postma built a solo on “I Got Rhythm” harmonies. Propelled by the muscle and drive of Ms. Oh’s bass line and Ms. Østergaard-Nielsen’s drumming, her alto sax improvisation was wild with bop and post-bop intensity. Ms. Primazzi (pictured left) followed in a piano solo laced wit Bud Powell impetus that matched Ms. Postma’s fire.
The German saxophonist Nicole Johänntgen presented her Sofia Project at the hotel Continental Du Sud in the heart of Ystad. She assembled five other musicians from Europe, and the Japanese pianist Naoko Sakata. Their concert came after one long rehearsal the day before in which many of them met for the first time. Considering the complexity of much of the music, the results spoke volumes about the musicianship of the players.
Ms. Sakata packed more chance-taking than anything else I heard all week into her solo on the opening number, whose title I heard as “Flukmodus.” In comparison, Ms. Johänntgen’s audacious soprano sax solo on the same tune sounded conservative. For the ensemble in a piece called “Fjord Ferry” Ingrid Hagel (Denmark) sang a 4th “horn” part in harmony with her violin, then vocalized in unison with her improvisation. The young Swedish trumpeter Ellen Petterson offered thoughtful contrast in a solo built on a series of long tones.
In general, however, eagerness to take risks was a hallmark of this new band. Polish vibraharpist Izabella Effenberg’s composition “Doctor, Doctor,” had Ms. Hagel’s pizzicato violin and the bass of Ellen Andreas Wang (Norway) interacting. Then the ensemble melded into a boppish line before breaking into a free-for-all that yielded to a four-mallet vibes solo by Ms. Effenberg. Except for what sounded like a brief reference to Gary McFarland, her playing was original and virtuosic. Switching to alto saxophone, Ms. Johänntgen played with passion, melancholy and a full sound in a minor-key piece called “Waifs.” She followed with “If I Could See You,” another tune whose sadness contrasted with her enthusiastic persona. Her joi de vivre (lebensfreude?) was back full strength for a tune she called “Hello.” It had overtones of funk and Cannonball Adderley and ended with drummer Dorota Piotrowska (Poland) trading joyous eight-bar passages with all hands.