Vocalists Shine at Stockholm Jazz Festival

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Lina Nyberg performs at the Stockholm Jazz Festival on October 9.

(Photo: Heiko Purnhagen 2017)

The music at this year’s edition of the Stockholm Jazz Festival, which ran Oct. 6–15, started with a formless, 21-minute excavation. It was Sweden’s Tonbruket quartet. For newcomers to this band, anything seemed possible, but suddenly, from formless to form, the group moved into a jazzy 6/4 groove.

Former est acoustic bassist Dan Berglund—flanked by guitarist Johan Lindstrom and drummer Anders Werliin on one side and keyboardist/violinist Martin Hederos on the other—led the band through a robust, combustible shuffle akin to Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky.” The subtle shift spoke more to the group’s cohesion than the actual, somewhat pedestrian music played. The standing-room-only house at Stockholm’s Studion Kulterhuset club seemed content to watch more than dance to what was clearly shake-your-booty material. Throughout the band’s 90-minute set, no one stood out as a preeminent soloist, although each player took his share of the spotlight. There were periods of goth-like rock followed by sudden pauses that led to a more classical approach, pianist Hederos moving from organ back to piano, replete with rubato flourishes worthy of Keith Emerson.

Performing music from her newest release, the two-CD Terrestrial (the third in a trilogy for Hoob Records), Swedish singer Lina Nyberg brought her crack band to lock in on a very distinctive program. Accompanying Nyberg’s very personal, unique voice, pianist Cecilia Persson, electric guitarist David Stackenas, bassist Josef Kallerdahl and drummer Peter Danemo filled in for the string orchestra heard on Terrestrial. The two-set program at Fasching was sandwiched with music by others, beginning with a haunting take on “Lazy Afternoon” (also heard on Terrestrial) and ending with Baden Powell’s colorful “X Canto De Ossanha.” Interspersed were other Nyberg originals as well as one from João Gilberto (“Undiu”).

The group’s ways of approaching a song, with odd intervals for soloists and interludes that would change course with contrasting tempos and rhythms (or none), kept the music fresh and pleasantly uncertain. Stakenas’ often reverb-laden guitar, in particular, served as a regular alternate to Nyberg’s heavily narrative, somewhat theatrical vocal style. Going from dramatic and cloudy to bright, Nyberg and her band seemed like extensions of one another, despite the music’s unpredictable idiosyncrasies.

Other notable singers this year included another Swede, Rigmor Gustafsson, who performed at Fasching on Saturday night to a packed house. Gustafsson delivered a tasty mix of familiar tunes, ably supported by her band of bassist Martin Hoper, drummer Chris Montgomery and pianist Daniel Karlsson. Novel arrangements were the bill of fare: a waltzing, robust take on Burt Bacharach’s “Walk On By,” a slow and easeful “Over The Rainbow,” and James Taylor’s “Fire And Rain,” performed at a slow, deliberate pace that played more as folk music than jazz but with a slight taste of funk.

In two separate performances, Massachusetts-born, Stockholm-based Jessica Curran, 23, showed some of her versatility by singing in a variety of styles. Performing at the intimate basement club S:TA Clara Bierhaus on Sunday afternoon, Curran was joined by violinist Terese Lien Evenstad and pianist Anna Greta Siguroardottir with music that started off murky and formless but resolved into a sunny, swinging version of “On The Street Where You Live.” That song was followed by creative original music and later reharmonized versions of two Joni Mitchell songs: a very touching “Both Sides Now” and an audience-engaging “Woodstock,” complete with snapping fingers and audience participation.

Curran’s Tuesday night show at the 150-seat Kallaren, Scalateatern was standing-room-only as she and her rotating seven-piece band visited material from her debut CD of original music, Here (Self Release). Departing from spritely to more worldly terrain, Curran’s life-affirming voice seemed to capture the yearning essence that this crowd was looking for.

The other noteworthy singer heard at this year’s festival was Sweden’s Vivian Buczek, singing music from her new CD, Ella Lives (Prophone), in a program entitled “Dear Ella.” Appearing Monday evening at Plugged Records in two sets, she was joined by her swinging trio of pianist Martin Sjostedt, bassist Niklas Fernquist and drummer Lofcrantz Ramsay, with special guest trumpeter/vocalist Peter Asplund on selective numbers. Buczek’s delicate voice seemed suited to songs made popular by Fitzgerald, which this night included “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” an uptempo “Yesterdays” in 5/4 and a crawling “Prelude To A Kiss.”

There was also the “return” of Swedish soul singer Kaah in a rocking, danceable visit to the historic Vasateatern later that night and a performance by pianist Hiromi and harpist Edmar Castañeda, playing music from their new CD, Live In Montreal (Telarc) at the exquisite Berwaldhallen on Sunday night. Held at Fasching on Tuesday night was the always popular P2 Jazzkatten music awards show, a party that, once again, rolled out like an exciting sporting event.

The Stockholm Jazz Festival continued through Oct. 15 with performances by Azymuth (Oct. 13), Maria Schneider and the Bohuslan Big Band (Oct 14) and Richard Bona and Mandekan Cubano (Oct. 15). DB



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January 2019
Eric Dolphy
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