Catching up is a noble ambition, but the quantity of music at the Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival and the tight scheduling make it all but impossible to be comprehensive. My notebook is overflowing with impressions. Here are brief reports on a few performances.
The festival’s opening concert was by the New York band The Rad Trads, whose blend of traditional, jazz, rock and folk music accounts for their name. They enlivened the ancient courtyard of Per Helsas Gård for an hour and a half before they led the festival’s celebratory opening parade through Ystad’s streets. In the photo below you see The Rad Trads. Directly below the upraised bell of Michael Fatum’s trumpet is Japanese alto saxophonist Yosuke Sato.
A couple of days later at Per Helsas Gård, the energetic Sato co-led a group with guitarist Jacob Fischer, rested from his Tuesday concert with Hans Beckenroth at the Klosterkyrkan. From the aural evidence, Sato’s playing seems to have been influenced equally by Cannonball Adderley and Phil Woods. He and Fischer opened with Adderley’s “Wabash,” then burned through several choruses of Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin,” a classic from Rollins’ tenure with Miles Davis in the 1950s. It must be tempting for a saxophonist with Sato’s technique to fully use it . He may have loaded at least one virtuosic run too many into his choruses on Johnny Mandel’s “Emily,” but apart from that it was a superb solo, as was the following one by Danish pianist Zier Romme Larson. The Fischer-Sato group took the 1920 Al Jolson hit “Avalon” fast, Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” faster than fast. The speedier tempos had the unexpected effect of encouraging Sato, pianist Larson and Fischer to introduce more space into their solos, a welcome development.
Angels At The Museum
The Swedish bassist David Carlsson presented his David’s Angels at the Konstmuseum in downtown Ystad. The angels were vocalist Sofie Norling, pianist Maggi Olin, the Danish drummer Michala Østergaard-Nielsen and as featured guest artist, Canadian trumpeter Ingrid Jensen.
A leader in her own right and often a member of Maria Schneider’s New York big band, Jensen was compelling with and without the electronic augmentation that she has made a specialty. Her use of loop effects and echo controlled by a foot pedal helped give Carlsson’s minor-key “Now That It’s Over” an eerie cast reminiscent of Middle Eastern music. She was all over the full range of the trumpet, often squeezing out sequences of notes in the extreme upper register. Carlsson is, to say the least, an active player. His lines on the electric bass inflect the band’s work with jazz-rock undercurrents.
In a piece that Carlsson said was about “getting rid of stuff in your life,” Jensen and Norling performed voice-trumpet unison passages and Norling displayed her extremely personal way of scat singing. In her improvisation, Jensen quoted the title phrase of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” a fitting reference in this 50th anniversary year of the saxophone master’s death. Among the surprises delivered by David’s Angels was Jensen’s use of her trumpet as a percussion instrument. She lightly pounded the mouthpiece with the palm of her hand as she held the horn’s bell to a microphone. It created the desired popping sound, but—a warning to trumpet players—the action may cause you to cringe and wonder if she’s jamming the mouthpiece irretreivably into the horn. There is no video of the Ystad concert, but in a performance captured earlier at the Gustav Adolfs Church in Helsingborg you’ll get a sense of Norling’s flexible vocalizing, a bit of Jensen’s trumpet work including the mouthpiece whacking, and the style of Carlsson’s band. The piece is called “I’m Not Sorry At All.”
Al Foster Quintet Plays Charlie Parker
The veteran drummer Al Foster opened his quintet’s concert at the Ystad Theatre with Charlie Parker’s “Klactoveedsedstene,” establishing with the “Lady Be Good” contrafact Foster’s and the band’s bebop leanings. Foster confirmed the orientation by following with Parker’s “My Little Suede Shoes,” which featured whimsy and surprise in a solo by pianist Adam Birnbaum, solid mastery of the idiom in bassist David Weiss’s solo, and masterly drum breaks by Foster. The set’s highlight was a solo by alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo on “Lover Man,” a ballad Parker struggled with in a troubled period of his heroin addiction. Parker’s flawed recording of it has, nonetheless, long been a favorite of saxophonists. In his impassioned solo on the piece, DiRubbo achieved originality while reflecting Parker’s continued influence 71 years after the . Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix followed with a solo that matched the excellence of DiRubbo’s. It was a good night for them and for the Foster band in general.
Leading an unusual quintet, Swedish soprano saxophonist Karolina Almgren reflected little direct influence by Parker but considerable ingenuity in a band that included the Finnish cellist Anni Elif Ececioglu. The cello added warmth and fullness to the ensemble. As she has in the Fanny Gunarsson Quartet and Sisters of Invention, Almgren confirmed that she is one of the most interesting Scandinavian musicians of her generation. Two drummer-percussionists interacted with Almgren, bassist Isa Savbrant and Ececioglu’s cello. The drummers were Algren’s mother Martina and her sister Malin. The resulting music had textures, swirl and movement that supported Almgren’s explorations. Bassist Savbrant provided the harmonic floor and rounded out an intriguing all-female group.
In the most uncanny timing of the festival, Almgren had just announced “Here’s That Rainy Day” when the skies opened and sent many of the listeners in the Hos Morten Café’s courtyard scurrying to shelter under a tree or in the covered entryway. The concert continued on the protected bandstand, with some listeners covered by hooded plastic ponchos. The rain soon passed.
Håkan Broström and Ebbot Lundberg
A concert by Håkan Broström’s New Places Orchestra featuring Ebbot Lundberg turned out to be an Ebbot Lundberg concert only marginally featuring Broström’s inspired saxophone playing. For years, Lundberg led a pop-rock band called The Soundtrack of Our Lives. At Ystad, he aggressively delivered one number after another. The well-crafted arrangements occasionally opened to make room for solos by Broström, guitarist Johan Lindström, trombonist Karin Hammar and other band members. Broström was moving in his soprano sax solo on a piece called “Drowning in a Wishing Well.” However, the afternoon was clearly meant to be Lundberg’s. He filled it to overflowing with his big, deep voice and outsized personality
Charlton Price says
Your annual Ystad reportage each year becomes more and more informative and enjoyable. We dig the vivid detail and your candor about both the superlative and the merely memorable.The participants,the Ystad setting and Jan Lundgren’s fastidious design and management of the event together surely are making an increasingly noteworthy contribution to world music. If this is too gushy, so be it. The “you are there” flavor of your reporting each year puts us there with you.
Dave Kiffer says
Thank you for reporting on this festival. As jazz coverage in the North American media wanes, we barely hear about American festivals, let alone European ones. Are there any recordings of Sato or Almgren that you recommend? It would be great to hear some of their work. One really, really minor quibble: the always wonderful Ingrid Jensen is not American, she was born in Vancouver, BC. Thanks again for the great work and keep the “Riffs” coming!
Doug Ramsey says
for recordings by Sato, Discogs has a discography with listings. See it here:
For Almgren, try here:
Ted O'Reilly says
Ingrid Jensen is, of course, a Canadian trumpeter. Vancouver-born, raised in Nanaimo, as were so many fine British Columbian musicians. (She does live in the United States.)
Doug Ramsey says
Oops. I knew that. The correction is made.