By Josef Woodard | Published January 2019
Susanna Risberg, blessed with a vibrant sense of musical self, fresh ideas and her own distinct voice, is a young jazz guitarist worth keeping a close ear on. At 27, the Sweden-based player has made some notable noise at European festivals and on her first two albums. For Vilddjur, Risberg performs in settings from duo to nonet, playing beautifully in each.
The bandleader brings an expressive life and tonal depth to the clean, dark-leaning sound of the mainstream jazz guitar tradition with nimble fingers and an agile creative force in her solos. Compositionally, Risberg taps into various subgenres but defies strict allegiance to any one style. Odd meters and beguiling melodic fragments abound, and song structures can take unexpected twists.
Risberg also works well, and sensitively, in ballad mode, whether on originals, such as the Pat Metheny-esque “Häst(era),” or her lambently graceful take on Billy Strayhorn’s “Lotus Blossom.” There are a few sonic anomalies on the album, though, such as the electronic textures amping up parts of “Jubal’s Jug”—which otherwise is a study in extreme dynamic contrasts. A classical detour through a layered guitar transcription of Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 In E Minor Op. 67: III. Largo could seem out of place but reflects the harmonic and melodic content of Risberg’s compositional vocabulary.
Her guitar sound might be traditional, in jazz terms, but her approach is awash in contemporary concepts, both cerebral and heart-based.
Vilddjur: Leo; Lotass; Hasse & Gnutta; Lotus Blossom; Piano Trio No. 2 In E Minor Op. 67: III. Largo; Kirika; Jubal’s Jug; Häst(era); Villdjur. (55:28)
Personnel: Susanna Risberg, guitar; Rasmus Svensson-Blixt, drums; Oskar Lindström, piano; Niklas Fernqvist (4, 9), Palle Sollinger (2, 3, 6), Arvid Jullander (1, 7), bass; Fredrik Ljungkvist, soprano saxophone; Erik Tengholm, trumpet; Agnes Darelid, trombone; David Bennett, alto saxophone; Martin Wirén tenor saxophone.