Tineke Postma Plays With ‘New Sense Of Urgency’ On ‘Freya’

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With Freya, Tineke Postma explores Norse, Frisian, Celtic and Roman mythologies.

(Photo: Courtesy of the Artist)

Many argue that parenthood is one of life’s biggest game changers. Often, the arrival of a newborn—or adopted—child shifts one’s priorities, and time management becomes all the more essential. As saxophonist and composer Tineke Postma explains, parenthood also can shape a musician’s perspective on creativity.

The bandleader’s engrossing new disc, Freya (Edition), is her first album since the birth of her son six years ago. And Postma views it as a creative rebirth sparked by motherhood. “All of a sudden, I have so much care and love for this little creature and less time to only focus on myself. That helped me in taking myself a little less seriously and really [using] my time as efficiently as I can,” she said. “That meant playing with more depth and a new sense of urgency.”

For more than a decade now, Postma has displayed deft musicianship on alto and soprano saxophones with a penchant for searching, serpentine improvisations and lyrical melodies. But now, she said, she wants her music to reflect more aspects of her life, as opposed to her being able to just conceive comely melodies and wax over formidable passages. She also wants to be more present in her spontaneous music creation.

“You feel more exposed as a musician, instead of being someone who just wants to show what you can do technically for the sake of approval,” she said. “Being a student coming from a music conservatory, seeking approval just based upon technique can shape your identity. So, I want all the technical stuff to be in the background while being more in the moment to express my life through music. I really want the music to mean something.”

The title of her new album derives from the Norse and Frisian mythological goddess of creation and fertility. But Freya also connects to Postma’s Frisian heritage: She grew up in Holland’s northern countryside. After the birth of her son, she decided to explore the mythologies linked to her background, while also paying tribute to some of the strong women in her life—particularly her mother, stepmother and grandmother.

On the title track, pianist Kris Davis maps out a shifting groove with bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Dan Weiss. On alto, Postma and trumpeter Ralph Alessi scurry across the rhythmic bed with a unison melody that evokes explorers in search of a new territory. Soon, Postma breaks free and unravels steady, coiling passages around Davis’ serrated piano accompaniment. The stubborn groove and tricky meter reflect Postma’s work with Greg Osby; still, there’s a compositional freshness conveyed here. Another piece touching on Postma’s familial roots is the stark “In Light Of Reverence,” on which the bandleader (on soprano) and Alessi unloose leaping lines across a protean soundscape.

In terms of exploring goddesses and themes of strength wand fertility, Postma also incorporated Roman mythology, represented on the album with “Juno Lucina,” and Celtic mythology with “Scáthach’s Isle Of Skye”—two dynamic compositions marked by a peculiar momentum and probing improvisations. On “Aspasia And Pericles,” Postma’s gorgeous tribute to the Athenian statesman and his lover, the bandleader created a soul-stirring ballad featuring her clarion soprano alongside Alessi’s tart trumpet.

Regarding all three mythological figures—Juno, Scáthach and Aspasia—Postma notes that history has treated them poorly by either neglecting their own stories and impact, or maligning their reputations. In the case of Aspasia, Postma said that the Athenian in particular is often portrayed as a whore, because of her affair with Pericles.

Postma also pays tribute to another heroic figure who greatly impacted her life: Geri Allen. She met the late pianist and composer in 2008 at the Red Sea Jazz Festival, where they played together in a group that featured bassist Esperanza Spalding and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. Postma recalled Allen immediately being warm and motherly toward her.

“She was so down to earth,” Postma recalled. “Geri was the freest musician I’ve ever met. She wasn’t bound to any category in music. Everything that she played was so deep and profoundly lyrical. She made me cry with the way she played. She was always telling stories through her music.”

Dedicated to Allen, Postma delivered the hypnotic “Geri’s Print” on Freya, where Davis superbly channels some of Allen’s improvisational phrasing and harmonic language.

The leader also acknowledged the influence of two additional role models in creating Freya—Wayne Shorter and Jack DeJohnette. She met the former in 2012 and spent a day at his house talking with him. “It felt like a life-changing experience,” Postma said before explaining that it was seeing DeJohnette’s Made in Chicago ensemble perform at the 2015 North Sea Jazz Festival that influenced her to explore freer improvisations, juxtaposed with more tangible groove-based propulsion.

“The freedom [Made for Chicago] exposed in concert really touched me,” Postma said. “It made me want a band that could take the music anywhere, from very groovy music to very free elements. I feel like these musicians on Freya really brought my music to the next level. I also like to invite musicians in my band who will challenge me, people who I look up to and can learn from. These are some of the most inspiring musicians I know. They made the stories behind my music even stronger.” DB