Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Mark Dresser suitably masterful at Umea's Swedish summit

In 1968, the inaugural year of the Umea Jazz Festival in Sweden, an all-conquering cohort of six-string heroes were wiring Fenders and Gibsons into the frontal cortex of popular culture, the ongoing brainwaves of which can be seen in the truly astounding Guitar Museum that is around the corner from the multi-purpose Folkets Huus, whose several auditoriums host some 45 gigs in four days. Fittingly, two guitar-led groups, of which Jimi, Chuck B and Bo D would have been proud, capture the imagination. Norway's Hedvig Mollestad consolidates her growing reputation with a set that builds effectively on the classic power trio template, mixing hefty Led Zep-ish backbeats with slaloming unison riffs and bursts of quite wildly crackling distortion.

Sweden's Susanna Risberg, also opting for a drums and bass accompaniment, couldn't strike a greater contrast, and stakes a strong claim as a potentially significant new arrival in contemporary jazz. Two years ago she impressed at a Jazzahead showcase and she has since grown as a soloist and composer. Many of her pieces have pleasingly askew melodic lines and rhythmic frameworks that shift between the dynamic and static, introducing welcome subtleties into moments when the improvisations reach fever pitch. Risberg has some of the piercing, steely tonal richness of maverick players in the mould of Gábor Szabó, and she deconstructs themes with an eye-of-the-needle precision, finding myriad phrasal variations, often in volleys of quicksilver sixteenth notes, while keeping tight on the pulse of the music. There is also a subversive streak in her personality that draws attention, above all when she takes time to point out that a newly commissioned set of songs is dedicated to African nations as a result of her discovering more about the ghastly realities of colonialism.

A special showcase of Young Nordic Jazz Comets is a strong sign that Risberg's generation has much to offer and groups from Finland (Ok:Ko), Denmark (Dyberg/Balvig/Nesheim/Kovacs), Estonia (Anna & Solvi) and Sweden (Daniel & Dundret) all show promise to varying degrees, perhaps with Norway's potent Megalodon Collective making the biggest splash by way of a bulky two-drummer rhythm section and rhapsodic Ra-like horns. To a certain extent a loose summary of all of the above comes courtesy of a pan-Scandinavian ensemble led by a veteran with a strong stage presence: Marilyn Mazur. Her Shamania ensemble blends elements of ritual theatre, dance and predominantly African rhythms laced with a sprite-like humour, and though some of the arrangements are a touch overwrought, the energy is engrossing.

Among the other big names on the bill the pick of the bunch is the outstanding Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba (pictured top) whose American quartet, bolstered by the presence of New York-based British alto saxophonist Will Vinson is imperious, playing a Charlie Haden tribute that captures the particular quality of soulful, shadowy lament that pervaded much of the music of the late American (and former Rubalcaba collaborator). The pianist's sound, created both by his articulation and masterful manipulation of pedals, bewitches at times, as does his ornate phrasing and interaction with a fine rhythm section anchored by drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Matt Brewer. Not all of the headliners deliver as convincingly though. Norwegian trumpeter Matthias Eick's Midwest project is a languorous trawl through a kind of Nordic Americana that is disappointingly formulaic and Swedish electric combo Mats/Morgan's collaboration with the Norrlands Operans Symphony Orchestra does not make judicious use of the significant resources on show. Quite surprisingly, the same can be said of Norwegian pianist-producer Bugge Wesseltoft, whose celebration of 20 years of his highly-influential Jazzland label is a strangely muted affair in which the young talents to which he generously gives a platform shine individually without quite combusting as an ensemble. As is the case with Eick, a very basic failing is a lack of variety in tempo that is compounded by song structures that lean towards sketch rather than fully-fledged arrangement. There is a decisive change in the energy of the room when the pace picks up and the band is emboldened to groove with previously unheard vigour.

The most adventurous piece of programming from artistic director Lennart Strömbäck provides an object lesson in how to do just that and the artist in question is playing solo. American bassist-composer Mark Dresser is a master player whose rhythmic ingenuity – I think of the unforgettable set he played with Andrew Cyrille and Marty Ehrlich at the old Vortex way back when – and conceptual verve leave the audience rapt. His command of a purpose-built bass with a slightly trebly tone that is anything but flimsy is superlative, especially as he is able to draw a kind of vivid organic reverb on some notes by means of his attack. Dresser's sonic creativity goes to another level when he places a metal clamp with long spikes protruding like antenna on the bridge of the bass. It lends a unique mbira-like quality to his timbres, and although not a plugged-in wah wah pedal it still has enough richness to warrant a place in the nearby Guitar Museum. Hendrix would have been charmed. The legacy of black music in Sweden, though, is more direct, certainly when one thinks of the impact that was made by Don Cherry in the 1970s. Umea maintains an intelligent link to a range of exciting voices from America, Europe, Africa and beyond.

– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo by Melina-Hägglund

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Grooving in Glynde – Ciro Romano talks about five years of Love Supreme Jazz Festival

Grooving in Glynde – Ciro Romano talks a…

The Love Supreme jazz festival enters its fifth year as...

Read More.....
Oli Rockberger video exclusive ahead of album and live dates

Oli Rockberger video exclusive ahead of …

British soul-jazz singer/pianist Oli Rockberger is set to release his...

Read More.....
Brigitte Beraha and John Turville create live jazz score for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg screening

Brigitte Beraha and John Turville create…

An unmissable special screening of the 1964 French New Wave...

Read More.....
Campaign builds to rename Williamsburg Bridge in Sonny Rollins’ honour

Campaign builds to rename Williamsburg B…

It's been four years since Sonny Rollins, 86, last took...

Read More.....
Boogie at the Bandstand – the Love Supreme low-down

Boogie at the Bandstand – the Love Supre…

Ahead of the start next week of the fifth edition...

Read More.....
Tin Men and the Telephone and Tord Gustavsen for Ronnie’s Piano Trio Fest

Tin Men and the Telephone and Tord Gusta…

The fourth edition of the Ronnie Scott's International Piano Trio...

Read More.....
Marcus Miller, Chick Corea and Charles Lloyd top Blue Note at Sea cruise 2018

Marcus Miller, Chick Corea and Charles L…

Following the success of the inaugural Blue Note at Sea...

Read More.....
Alice and John Coltrane Celebration, Nik Bärtsch and Eliane Elias added to EFG London Jazz Festival

Alice and John Coltrane Celebration, Nik…

A raft of new concert hall additions have been announced...

Read More.....
Laila Biali and Idang Rasjidi Syndicate shine at Borneo Jazz Festival

Laila Biali and Idang Rasjidi Syndicate …

Set against the lush tropical gardens that stretch down from...

Read More.....
Doom Crooners Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones: Torch Song Cult

Doom Crooners Dale Cooper Quartet & …

Britanny-based brigands Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones have forged...

Read More.....
Ollie Howell ‘Knew’ video exclusive ahead of UK tour dates

Ollie Howell ‘Knew’ video exclusive ahea…

Fast rising drummer Ollie Howell recently released his second album...

Read More.....
Theo Crocker, Neil Cowley Trio and Martin Taylor step up for Glasgow

Theo Crocker, Neil Cowley Trio and Marti…

The 31st edition of the Glasgow Jazz Festival, running from...

Read More.....
Geoff Simkins, Nikki Iles and Dave Green out to lunch at Cadogan Hall

Geoff Simkins, Nikki Iles and Dave Green…

Although billed as individuals, this effectively was the Geoff Simkins...

Read More.....
Marco Colonna and Filippo Vignato Among Homegrown Heroes At Novara Jazz, Italy

Marco Colonna and Filippo Vignato Among …

  A ritual accompanies the end of every concert at this...

Read More.....
Jazz In The Round, Arena and Bandstand names complete Love Supreme Line-Up

Jazz In The Round, Arena and Bandstand n…

A final flurry of additional performances have been confirmed for...

Read More.....
Folk-Jazz on the Fjords and Elephant9 get gnarly at Nutshell Jazz

Folk-Jazz on the Fjords and Elephant9 ge…

Suddenly, a burly Viking saxophonist is softly blowing a ballad...

Read More.....
Loueke and LRK light up Brussels Jazz Weekend

Loueke and LRK light up Brussels Jazz We…

Real Brussels is nothing like the Brussels of politicised fiction...

Read More.....
Maisha celebrate the Alice Coltrane Songbook at Church Of Sound

Maisha celebrate the Alice Coltrane Song…

The spiritual jazz legacy of Alice Coltrane is set for...

Read More.....
Soft Machine fire-up Elgar Room

Soft Machine fire-up Elgar Room

British jazz-rock legends Soft Machine will be firing up the...

Read More.....
Brad Mehldau Trio, Georgie Fame and Camilla Beeput shine at Bath Festival

Brad Mehldau Trio, Georgie Fame and Cami…

Brad Mehldau, Georgie Fame with Guy Barker's Big Band and...

Read More.....
Tenth edition of Made in the UK rolls up to Rochester

Tenth edition of Made in the UK rolls up…

This year's 10th edition of the Made in the UK...

Read More.....
Django Bates Salutes Sgt. Pepper’s 50th anniversary with album and six nights at Ronnie Scott’s

Django Bates Salutes Sgt. Pepper’s 50th …

Jazzwise can exclusively announce that Django Bates, cover star of...

Read More.....
John Surman scoops Ivor Novello Jazz Award

John Surman scoops Ivor Novello Jazz Awa…

Brit-jazz sax great John Surman has won the Ivors Jazz...

Read More.....
Polly Gibbons gets passionate at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Polly Gibbons gets passionate at Pizza E…

Having been a fan of Polly Gibbons' vocal and songwriting...

Read More.....
Sax Star Stetson Plays Historic Brighton Picture House

Sax Star Stetson Plays Historic Brighton…

  Sax powerhouse Colin Stetson plays a one-off solo show in...

Read More.....
LUME Launch Follow-Up London Fest

LUME Launch Follow-Up London Fest

  Those genre-bending bastions of the UK's new jazz wave LUME...

Read More.....
Global Fusions and 25 for 25 Commissions Fire-Up EFG London Jazz Festival

Global Fusions and 25 for 25 Commissions…

Some exciting international jazz names are among the latest additions...

Read More.....
Joshua Redman, Phronesis/Engines Orchestra and Cottonopolis for Manchester Jazz Festival line-up

Joshua Redman, Phronesis/Engines Orchest…

The line-up has been announced for this year's Manchester Jazz...

Read More.....
Harpist Bzhezhinska strums up whole-hearted homage to the Coltrane legacy

Harpist Bzhezhinska strums up whole-hear…

  One of the capital's lesser known jazz venues, Toulouse Lautrec...

Read More.....
Norma Winstone and Interplay show how it’s done

Norma Winstone and Interplay show how it…

When a top vocalist is in such high demand and...

Read More.....
Andrew McCormack accelerates with Graviton album launch

Andrew McCormack accelerates with Gravit…

Award-winning pianist Andrew McCormack is set to make a dramatic...

Read More.....
Corea Crowns Host Of Cheltenham Charms

Corea Crowns Host Of Cheltenham Charms

A successful jazz festival is made in the mix: the...

Read More.....
The Rolling Stones give Jazz FM Awards the blues

The Rolling Stones give Jazz FM Awards t…

Rock'n'roll icons The Rolling Stones walked away from last week's...

Read More.....
Penguins Flip Filmic Treat At Bristol's Colston Hall

Penguins Flip Filmic Treat At Bristol's …

GoGo Penguin have always had one eye on the dancefloor...

Read More.....
Intakt Fest Goes International At The Vortex

Intakt Fest Goes International At The Vo…

  Given the fact that Swiss record company Intakt has been...

Read More.....
Shabaka Hutchings, Donny McCaslin and The Rolling Stones among Jazz FM Awards winners

Shabaka Hutchings, Donny McCaslin and Th…

The fourth edition of the Jazz FM Awards, presented by...

Read More.....


Qobuz-ad

 

Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

@rrpgeditor Great!
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
RT @RollinsBridge: @Jazzwise @jazzfm @WmsbgNews @chrisphilips @sonnyrollins Thanks for the piece! Please follow our efforts at @RollinsBrid…
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Grooving in Glynde – Ciro Romano talks about five years of Love Supreme Jazz Festival https://t.co/lEm2cwKO7K https://t.co/JYM4f4GHQ6
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Not many better than Cheer-Accident https://t.co/LsQZtD9m7N @cuneiformrecord @cheeraccident @RecCollMag @ProgMagazineUK @mysterylesson
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@deebyrnesax @SouthgateGina great lampshade helmet - like a Laura Ashley Lord Vader @lumemusiclondon
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

Sign up to the Jazzwise monthly E-Newsletter