The Jazz.com Blog
July 22, 2009 · 0 comments
David Tenenholtz reports on the Stockholm Jazz Festival below, in the first installment of a two-part article. T.G.
With the downsizing and outright canceling of jazz festivals across the world this past year, there is some hope to be found in the Stockholm Jazz Festival, underway since Wednesday July 15 and running though Sunday July 19. How did the festival deliver such an abundant program in spite of world-wide financial crisis?
Allen Toussaint (photo by Eva Elings)
A short answer: Ingvar Jensen. The former owner of Swedish electronics company Elfa, sold the business a few years ago, and in early 2009 bought the festival. Gunnar Lagerman, an experienced director of festival programming in Sweden, made this year’s festival longer by a day, and organized a wide range of events across all five days and nights. Set on the island of Skeppsholmen, the festival featured an assortment of international artists on two stages—one a large amphitheater and one a smaller stage, in addition to an indoor auditorium located within the Museum of Modern Art, also on the island overlooking the city center.
At Skeppsholmen on day one, the vibe was all fun and games from the opening act on the smaller stage, a large funky group called Hazmat Modine, featuring two harmonicas, two guitars, trombone, tube, and drums. Following Hazmat Modine was Swedish tenor saxophonist Jonas Kullhammar and his quartet, fresh from a U.S. tour in June, and here joined by guest vocalists Nina Ramsby, tabla player Suranjana Ghosh, and lap steel guitarist Robert Östlund.
The large stage was anointed by two legends of New Orleans music, first a solo piano (complete with voodoo décor) concert by Dr. John, followed by Allen Toussaint fronting a remarkable band, with bassist Roland Guerin of the Marcus Roberts Trio, here chiefly on electric. Guerin rocked hard on an extended slap bass solo towards the end of Toussaint’s set, and was pushed to the extreme by the huge clapping crowd. Toussaint’s songs such as “Working in the Coal Mine” “Southern Nights” and “Get Out of My Life Woman” are especially energetic, and the arrangements, which included a tribute to Sidney Bechet from the latest recording Bright Mississippi, felt like second nature to the experienced sidemen in the band. One concertgoer hoisted a pole waving the “Louisiana Proud” and Mardi Gras flags high in the air, which received a salute from the jovial Toussaint, whose piano style has great strength while maintaining its prettiness at the same time.
Pianist Jan Lundgren partnered with bassist Lars Danielsson for an exploration of Renaissance choral music comingled with improvisation for a project called Magnum Mysterium, and released an album of the same name in 2007. In the intimate auditorium inside the Museum of Modern Art, the repertoire by Andrea Gabrieli, Orlando Lasso, and William Byrd was presented by the two instrumental soloists and the Gustav Sjökvist Chamber Choir. Danielsson’s improvisations provided explorations far out of the Renaissance tradition, but with a heavenly vocal quality, while Lundgren’s own controlled pianism and focused communication with Sjökvist gave the music proper direction.
Richard Galliano (photo by Eva Elings)
Outside on the smaller stage, a quartet of accordionist Richard Galliano, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, electric bassist Richard Bona, and drummer Clarence Penn played tangos and engaged in other flights of fancy. Rubalcaba liberated the band with his own aggressive, at times even bombastic cross-cutting of meter. With montunos and innovative locked hands techniques, along with deft single-note runs, Rubalcaba was just as unstoppable as the accordionist leader, whose command of his instrument is something as transcendental as Coltrane’s command on tenor.
Trumpeter Jon Hassel and his trio called Maarifa Street used their samplers, soft synths, and other gadgetry for a unique, spacy jam that traveled in directions ranging from earthy to cosmic. As the first evening closed, the jazz jam group Little Feat could be heard wailing far away from the island in the center of Stockholm. With the start of day two, American trumpeter Roy Hargrove led an impressive big band through a deeply varied repertoire of modern big band writing with vocal features for the superior Roberta Gambarini. There was plenty of room for intense solos by altoist Bruce Williams, trombonist Vincent Chandler, the youthful pianist Johnathan Baptiste, and others. The only American big band to be featured at the festival, Roy Hargrove’s ensemble killed it on the large stage, and his deft conducting and pyrotechnic trumpet solos were additionally as dazzling as his choice in shoes—black Nike hi-tops with hot pink logo. Unfortunately, I left too soon to hear other groups on day two, and missed some excellent line ups of the McCoy Tyner Trio with Bill Frisell, Swedish saxophonist Magnus Lindgren and his “Batucada Jazz” project, and many others.
Day three’s performances (stay tuned for a forthcoming overview) marked an end to the best jazz programming, and the weekend’s line-up changed over to stars in various genres ranging from hip-hop and R&B such as the Swedish Timbuktu, Meshell Ndegeocello (including the trippy synthesizers and keyboards of Jason Lindler), and the Junior Walker All Star Band playing Motown hits.
This blog entry posted by David Tenenholtz