Tag Archives: hymn

HOT MUSIC, LAUGHTER, TEARS: THE STOCKHOLM STOMPERS

Somewhere I read that the same facial muscles are used when we laugh and when we weep.  Both sets of muscles got a workout while I listened to the debut CD of the Stockholm Stompers, CEASE FROM YOUR SORROW AND CRYING.

Stockholm Stompers

Here’s what I mean:

As you can instantly see and hear, the Stompers approach different kinds of musical material with deep feeling and energy. Their uptempo romps are raucous but expert (it takes great accuracy to appear so unrestrained and not fall over the edge into musical chaos). They bring to mind the small hot groups of 1936 on Fifty-Second Street, the Washboard Rhythm Kings, as well as an occasional echo of Spike Jones’ hot outchoruses. The listener never misses a cornet or a piano because the Stompers’ sound is both original and full. (And for those of you who take first impressions seriously or too seriously, please don’t be put off by the period attire or that some of the repertoire has been played a great deal: the Stompers are anything but formulaic. They really know the music.)

I knew about the Stompers because I’ve had the good fortune to meet and hear the brilliant guitarist / banjoist Jacob Ullberger both on disc and in person at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, and he is responsible for a beautiful tenor guitar solo on Kärleksvals — a sweet musing interlude. Equally intriguing is the trio of soprano saxophone, guitar, and string bass on Watching Dreams Go By (Solitariness) — a delightful easily-swinging small classic. But my favorite performance on this disc opens and closes it — a somber, mournful offering of FLEE AS A BIRD (from whence the disc takes its title) — the first half of the traditional New Orleans funeral ritual. You’ll have to hear it in full to get its deep emotional impact, but it is very moving music.

Visit here to buy the CD or to find out more about the band. And their YouTube channel is here if you’d like to see other videos of them performing live.

The songs are: Flee as a Bird / The Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me / When I Get Low I Get High / The Call of the Freaks / There’ll Be Some Changes Made / Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? / Limehouse Blues / New Orleans Bump / I Lost My Gal from Memphis / Watching Dreams Go By (Solitariness) / Billy Goat Stomp / I’m a Long Gone Daddy / Old Man Mose Is Dead / Kärleksvals / Who Stole the Lock on the Hen House Door? / Makin’ Whoopee / Lover, Come Back to Me / Postludium (Flee as a Bird).

And the participants: Ulf Dreber – soprano saxophone, vocal; Nikolas Viisanen – trombone; Jacob Ullberger – guitar, tenor banjo, tenor guitar, six-string banjo, clarinet, vocal; Alf Sjöblom — bass, tuba; Martin Ljungberg – washboard, bass drum, vocal, tenor horn, tenor banjo.

Candid music: hot, occasionally wild, and deeply felt.

May your happiness increase!

SERENADES FROM SWEDEN: ANNA PAULINE ANDERSSON and MATTIAS NILSSON (March 28, 2012)

Beauty is a universal language.  It flourishes in our hearts.  So the fact that I and some JAZZ LIVES readers speak no Swedish will not impede anyone’s enjoyment of the soaring improvisations that follow.  And in these videos, a patient viewer will find in the introduction to #2 all the mysteries of song #1.  Trust me on this.

I had not heard of the singer Anna Pauline Andersson or her fiance, pianist Mattias Nilsson, before March 2012.  But when a friend told me they were coming to the United States for the first time — with plans for a free duet recital at the Church of Sweden in New York City — I became intrigued.  And when I saw their performances on YouTube, I was seriously impressed and moved.  Thus, on March 28, 2012, I and my video camera were in a place not usual for us — recording wondrous music, secular and sacred, all illuminated by the same delight in beauty and in communicating that beauty to us.  Anna Pauline’s voice caresses and soars; Mattias’ piano glitters and investigates.

They began the program with the melancholy Swedish folksong, EMMIGRANTVISA (VI SÅLDE VÅRAN HEMMAN), or SONG OF THE IMMIGRANTS, which describes the hard journey the Swedes had to undergo to get to New York.  Jung would have been pleased that some of the cadences coming out of the collective unconscious sound like ST. JAMES INFIRMARY:

Then, Evert Taube’s 1946 song describing the ocean (a natural thematic connection), SÅ SKIMRANDE VAR ALDRIG HAVET, which Anna Pauline translated as SUCH GLITTERING SEA:

In case the English-only types in the audience were getting restless, Anna and Mattias then turned to a song to celebrate what is their first visit to New York City — the lovely 1925 Rodgers and Hart MANHATTAN, performed with a proper urban lilt and humor:

From one classic to another: STAR DUST, sung and played with great empathy, making the most familiar song new:

LILLA IDAS SOMMARVISA is a  more recent Swedish song by Georg Riedel and Astrid Lindgren, from a 1973 film.  Anna Pauline remade its title into THE SUMMER SONG OF IDA — its message is clear in any language:

Anna didn’t treat the next song as a hymn, but Ellington’s I’M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT could have gotten in on its title alone:

Another version of exultation, sly and whimsical — TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE:

JAG HAR BOTT VID EN LANDSVÄG, written by Alvar Kraft and Charles Henry (pseud Karl Henrik Henrud) in 1939 — a song from the south of Sweden, where, Anna Pauline tells us, “the people are happy and voluptuous”; I believe the title translates to I GREW UP NEAR A COUNTRY ROAD:

BLOTT EN DAG, the Swedish hymn, (DAY BY DAY AND WITH EACH PASSING MOMENT), by Oscar Ahnfelt and Lina Sandell (1872):

I´LL FLY AWAY, by Albert E. Brumley (1929)

and the 1913 JAG VANTAR VID MIN MILA, which translates as I’M WAITING FOR A WANDERER:

And, as an encore (after Mattias’ confession!) there’s the 1956 jazz tune UNDERBART ÄR KORT, by Povel Ramel: its title translates to THE GOOD THINGS ARE TOO SHORT, which was true of this concert:

Thanks to Anna Pauline and Mattias, to Jack Anderssen, to Laurie Whitlock, and Eva Engman.  And although I don’t usually find myself in churches, this one is a beauty and everyone I encountered was more than gracious.

May your happiness increase.

JESSICA ROEMISCHER’S GENEROUS IMAGINATION

The imagination of pianist Jessica Roemischer is roomy and ranging.

At the keyboard, she creates cathedrals of sound: visible, tangible, not just audible.  Improvising on familiar themes — the blues, traditional melodies, folk songs, hymns — she may begin with plain-spoken melodic lines, simple chords.

She doesn’t rush; she doesn’t intimdate the listener by jumping into complexities before the music is ready for them.  She takes her time.  A murmuring, rumbling bass becomes more turbulent water.  Blue notes make themselves felt in surprising places.  Her harmonies deepen; her chords grow more dense, each sonority given its own space to echo before a new cluster tumbles in.  Single-note lines give way to arpeggios, creating impressionistic washes of sound and timbre.  Clouds and rippling pools emerge from treble and bass; simple lines and chords become a conversation, then an orchestra.

The listener sees something three-dimensional ascend towards the sky, its base solid, its foundation broad, its spires reaching upwards, large but never imposing.  And her improvisations settle and become more quiet; then, the listener is back on the ground, enriched and delighted.

I have heard and seen this in performance: she wove together the strains of SHENANDOAH and WALTZING MATILDA, slowing down the latter to match its American cousin, making the intertwined melodies both mournfully yearning and hopeful.  AMAZING GRACE moved from quiet simplicity to great cloud-rhapsodies of sound and back to an eloquent plainness.

Here is one version of AMAZING GRACE — but it is only one set of variations on a theme.  Roemischer is a true improviser, bravely venturing, her vistas unrestricted, but always honoring the melody and its harmonic richness.

Roemischer has a new solo CD, called HAVEN, which mixes traditional material, Sixties pop, Bruce Springsteen, and her own lilting originals.  It’s a rewarding series of journeys, inward and outward.  Visit her at http://www.pianobeautiful.com.

BARRELHOUSE GOES TO CHURCH

Pianist Virginia Tichenor (casually fierce) and plectral shaman Craig Ventresco offer meditations on Joe Oliver’s RIVERSIDE BLUES (composed by Thomas A. Dorsey) — which contains blues and hymns superimposed. (MABEL’S DREAM has a similarly-shaped Trio section, in mood if not in chords — perhaps both of those multi-strain compositions owe much to brass-band march music.) 

 Silverware and dishes crash; someone in the audience unwisely attempts to whistle the melody.  But none of this deters Virginia and Craig from their intense, holy, funky pursuits.  Frank Melrose approves.  Thanks once more to SFRae Ann and her magic camera!