The Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival ran six days and was packed with so much music that there was no chance of hearing it all. Here are brief impressions of a few more performances.
Gilbert Holmström New Sextet
In the Per Helsas Gard courtyard, the 80-year-old tenor saxophonist led five younger musicians in pieces that drew in equal measure on late bebop and on free jazz of the Ornette Coleman school. Holmström blended with trumpeter Magnus Broo, at times incisively, at others floating and abstract. “The Wizard,” dedicated to the late arranger/composer Gil Evans, had a nifty line played at first in unison, then harmonized by Holmström and Broo. Holmström’s “West African Dance” rode on Kresten Osgood’s sui generis drum pattern supporting a Broo solo that nailed the essence of West African music. Jonas Kulhammar’s baritone saxophone solo departed from that equatorial feeling to explode in a wild, free conclusion. Mathias Landau was the pianist, Mattias Svensson the bassist. Kept busy at this festival, they are in the top rank of Swedish jazz artists and played with their usual excellence.
Nicole Johänntgen, Sofia II
Following her acclaimed performance at Ystad in 2015, Ms. Johänntgen returned with another band of international female jazz artists. The music included three pieces that she said were inspired by a recent visit to Iceland but were titled “Ystad 1,” “Ystad 2” and “Ystad 3.” All were redolent of contemporary jazz practices, with space for harmonic interpretation by the players and considerable interaction among them. The band included instruments rarely used in jazz—tabla, harp and accordion. The blues inflections and bent notes in Johänntgen’s soprano and alto sax solos created atmospheres of their own. Belgian accordionist Anne Niepold’s face showed strain in the act of creation that was not reflected in her clever, relaxed solos. Exotic in a turban and flowing gown, Swiss harpist Julie Campiche employed a good deal of amplified twang and fuzz in her solos. With the percussive flow of her drumming, the Nepalese tabla player Shresta Sanskriti filled nearly every moment with her energy. Carlotta Andersson gave her composition “Malmö” dramatic drone guitar effects. Bassist Lisa Wulff of Germany dedicated her composition “Lund” to her bass teacher, who she said was in the audience. The drummer was Great Britain’s Sophie Alloway. Remarkably, the musicians Johänntgen assembled in Ystad got together for the first time the day before the performance. It is noteworthy that with so little rehearsal time, they achieved considerable cohesion.
Jan Lundgren Potsdamer Quartet
Festival artistic director Jan Lundgren took his Potsdamer Quartet into the Ystad Theater for a concert of music from their recent Potsdamer Platz album. The title tune and all but one of the ten others were by Lundgren. They included the quartet version of his emotional “The Poet,” which he had played the night before as a duet with trombonist Nils Landgren. Finnish alto saxophonist Jukka Perko’s affinity for Paul Desmond was apparent throughout, nowhere more than in his long lines and the tonal purity of his high notes in the ballad “Never Too Late.” Further along in the program, Perko had moments of vigor more in common with other contemporary alto players like Miguel Zenón and Steve Coleman. Danish drummer Morten Lund frequently used brushes to interact with Dan Berglund’s forceful bass lines, the rhythm partners buoying Lundgren’s forward motion, which was already propulsive. “Twelve Tone Rag” was a vehicle for Lundgren’s and Perko’s virtuosity at a speedy tempo. For all of its delicacy, this quartet made powerful music. Creativity generates power.
Eddi Reader, Scottish National Jazz Orchestra Directed by Tommy Smith
Ms. Reader is a singer of compelling stage presence who dances, glides and strikes poses to supplement her performance. If that description makes her seem off-putting, she is not. There’s enough wry spoofing in what she does to make her charming and enough musicianship to justify her work with a first-class band. The photos of her with the orchestra indicate the nature of her personality. Ms. Reader’s program included a number of songs based in the poetry of Robert Burns, including “A Fond Kiss. ”In her Ystad concert, she had the estimable support of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra led by tenor saxophonist Tommy Smith. He is one of several soloists in the band who played impressively in the ensemble and in solo. Among the others were pianist Steve Hamilton and alto saxophonist Martin Kershaw. Smith is the saxophonist on your left in the larger picture. He had a superb solo on, among other pieces, “The Glen of Tranquility.”
Jerry Bergonzi And Tim Hagans
Tenor Saxophonist Bergonzi and trumpeter Hagans are established veterans of modern jazz who thrive in the post-bebop tradition. The Ystad Theater concert by their quintet affirmed their high standing in the music. With a rhythm section of Danes Carl Winther and Anders Mogensen on piano and drums, respectively, and the Finnish-Swedish bassist Johnny Åman, their concert opened with “A.M. Time,” a tune named for Mogensen. His drumming established a demanding pace and a spirit that carried through the afternoon. In Hagans’ “Things Happen In A Convertible” (he tends toward titles with obscure meanings), Åman’s bass solo elicited from Bergonzi that ultimate jazz expression of approval, “Yeah.” Long solos followed, by the horns and Winther. Hagans introduced “Dream Child,” a song by the pianist’s late father Jens Winther, revered in Scandinavian jazz circles for his trumpet playing, arranging and bandleading. Bergonzi brought great intensity to his solo. In his choruses, Hagans worked in a couple of quotes from the Freddie Hubbard phrase book. In “Laura,” Bergonzi found the essence of that perfect David Raksin ballad from 1945. Hagans’ improvisation included reminders of the tune’s melody, a service too few soloists perform for their listeners. Finally, the quintet played Hagans’ “That’s What Happens When You Leave The Door Open,” with solos by all hands at a tempo so fast that it may have left the audience breathless —before they broke into an ovation.
(Photos by Markus Fägersten, except Johanntgen by Harri Paavolainen)