Here are impressions of more of the 38 musical events at the Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival.
Bona brought his entertainer persona to the fore. Though he and his sidemen presented scattered moments of musical substance, the Cameroon native centered his concert on singing and comedy supported by his electric bass playing. Trumpeter Dave Hernandez had a couple of impressive muted solos, Ludwig Afonso was often dazzling on percussion, and Bona gave hints of his bass virtuosity.Bona’s contrivances included feigning boredom amidst rhythmic excitement by looking at his wrist, which did not bear a watch—kicking at foot controls for his bass, although they had no detectable effect on the music— singing strings of syllables that bore no evident relation to the form or content of the music at hand—and occasionally making use of the Swedish word “tak” (“thanks”). Toward the end of the concert, he recruited the audience to join in call-and-response singing. His listeners responded by giving the band and themselves a standing ovation. It is rare than any performer at Ystad does not get a standing ovation.
Ms. Vrethammar’s 1970s hit “Y Viva España” established her as one of Sweden’s most prominent jazz and popular singers. In the Per Helsas Gård courtyard, she continued her love affair with Latin—particularly Brazilian—music and with standards from the great American songbook. Accompanied by a quartet of Scandinavian players, she opened with “The Man I Love,” launched by an unaccompanied solo from the veteran Danish bassist Mads Vinding. Ms. Vrethammar’s practiced body language and actressy gestures meshed effectively with her musician’s sense of time. In “Melancholy Baby” she used a subtle interior rhythm to underline the words “I’m in love with you,” so that the phrase glowed with meaning and enhanced the flow of the song. She ended a medley of Antonio Carlos Jobim songs with “One Note Samba,” dancing as she sang. The joy she expressed radiated through the courtyard while in the hollyhocks along the walls, honey bees did their work
In “The Nearness of You,” Ms. Vrethammar sustained perfect intonation and her lower register bloomed as she repeated and manipulated the word “you” going into the middle section of the song. She listened intently as alto saxophonist Klas Lindquist soloed. A graduate of Stockholm’s Royal College of Music and the Mannes College of Music in New York, Lindquist was one of several world-class Scandinavian musicians on the festival. In the rhythm section with bassist Vinding were pianist Peter Nydahl and drummer Aage Tanggaard.
Landgren played a few brilliant trombone solos one afternoon in the ballroom of the seaside Ystad Saltsjöbad Hotel. The solos were islands of jazz in a pops concert with rock and new-age overtones. Landgren featured sidewomen who in other contexts have proved their merits as jazz players. He gave them occasional shots at creative improvisation. Soprano saxophonist Karolina Almgren and her drummer sister Malin revealed glimpses of their jazz talents. Karolina’s solo on a piece called “If Trees are Made of Sand” was one instance. Eva Kruse’s room-filling bass sound and resourceful note choices may have made listeners in the audience want to hear her in a situation allowing greater inventiveness. Vocalist Rigmor Gustafsson was the principal performer in several songs. Lundgren also sang, as did pianist Ida Sand. The final number, Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” delivered what many in the room may have been waiting for. It began with a gospel piano introduction by Ida. Sand. Ms. Gustafsson sang the affecting lyric, then handed off to Ms. Sand for a solo. Landgren soloed at the top of his bebop game. It was an unadulterated jazz performance. The encore number, “Making Whoopee,” done as a boogaloo, had further free-spirited soloing.
There’s more to come about the Ystad festival. For now, however, as they say in SwedenNachty nacht.