A Call from the Inside.
The Goodbye Song. The Last Song. Don’t Play With Fire
Before You I Was Almost Fine
The Only Thing I Own. The Beauty and the Filth. Things That You Made Me Do.
Anna Lundqvist (voc); Björn Almgren (
s-sax, t-sax); Fabian Kallerdahl (pn); Mattias Grönroos (db); Jon-Erik Björänge (dr)
DB PRODUCTIONS 152 (50:35
Text and Translation)
Although it’s always a pleasure to discover an outstanding jazz talent through the medium of records, it would make the reviewer’s (and the general public’s) appreciation just a bit more enthusiastic if the artist provided some information about him or herself in the CD booklet. Assuming that everyone already knows who you are doesn’t really help those of us who don’t, but Anna Lundqvist is such a big talent that I forgive her. It’s also difficult to be angry with an artist with a sense of humor, and Lundqvist definitely has that. Just look at her website, for instance, and you’ll see two versions of her biography, the “Short version” and the “Long version;” and, in the latter, she really gives you more detail than you need:
I was born at 13:29 on October 26, 1977, at Nacka Hospital in Stockholm. I was raised in a musical home with a mother who was a violinist, teacher and conductor, and a father who was a double bass and electric bass player, teacher and arranger. The family moved in 1985 to Mellerud, Dalsland, where I grew up.
The cello is introduced. Helena Råberg’s beginner’s classes at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.
I start taking singing lessons at the Mellerud music school.
Teaching cello to music school and private students.
Etc., etc. What you do learn is that, after studying jazz at the Skurups Folkhögskola in 1999-2000, she began her career by singing Mary Magdalene in a semi-pro touring company of
Jesus Christ Superstar.
Well, you’ve got to start somewhere, and I can attest by the time of this album—her third, recorded in May 2012—Lundqvist has developed into an outstanding jazz vocalist. Insofar as the voice itself goes, it has a pleasant timbre and great range and pitch but is not inherently beautiful like the voices of Annie Ross or Alice Babs, but like both of them she knows how to use her voice like an instrument which is more important in this context. She also takes some wonderful risks harmonically in her songs, which she has written herself. Small wonder that Lundqvist was elected to the committee of IMPRA, an organization whose primary purpose is to “support and promote female jazz/improvisation/electronica/alternative musicians, especially because there is a significant shortage of them in these genres.” (I must interject here that, although IMPRA promotes women jazz musicians, it is not a gender-exclusive organization but is open to membership for anyone who shares its goals.)
This CD, titled
Before You I Was Almost Fine,
is Lundqvist’s third, and all I can say after hearing it is if the first two were this good, I’m in.
A Call From the Inside
, typical of her songwriting, hovers around C but the harmonic progression is more modal than major, and Lundqvist uses this note as a pivot point to move the harmony, including half-steps up and augmented fifth chords. Even from the very beginning of the tune, she uses her voice like an instrument, not merely scatting (though that comes in time) but shaping the actual melody in a way that resembles saxophone phrasing.
plays around with the meter, using a quasi-Latin rhythm within a regular 4/4 that gives the whole piece the feeling of irregular beats, divided up as 1/1/1-2/1-2 within each bar.
The Goodbye Song
is a ballad in F, sung and played softly in a relaxed 12/8 by Lundqvist with only piano and bowed bass accompaniment in the first half of the opening chorus; then drums enter as well, along with the other musicians chanting wordless syllables behind her. Almgren plays a very interesting tenor solo, which grows in intensity, and as it does Lundqvist and the wordless chorus get louder as well. Eventually everything drops back down in volume, with only soft piano and bowed bass continuing the thread of the music. In
Don’t Play With Fire
Almgren’s tenor solo shows a definite Coltrane influence. The intro to
The Only Thing I Own
uses similarly complex Coltrane-like rhythms before it breaks into a more conventional 4/4. Probably the most complex beat is on
Things That You Made Me Do
, which runs 6/4 – 6/4 – 4/4 in alternating three-bar segments. Lundqvist and the musicians have great fun with it.
One could go into detail like this on each track, so varied are the meters of each tune and, more interestingly, the way Lundqvist and the band vary tempo and rhythm. She sets up her very own sound world within each song, no two are alike, and the rhythm section plays even further with the beats. In
, for instance, the piano plays little afterbeats within each measure that morph the feeling of the piece, while in
The Last Song
it is the drummer whose intricate filigree changes things around. If I had to characterize her influences, I’d guess that Sheila Jordan was a primary source. With so much brilliance in her songwriting and improvising abilities, however, I must be honest in saying that her upper range is not only thin in timbre but often strained. In other words, she has the chops but not the technique to reach all the notes she wants to use. Of course, this is not unusual among jazz singers; not everyone is an Annie Ross, Alice Babs, or Yolanda Bavan, though you always hope for their successors to arrive. Moreover, her working band is an extraordinary group of musicians, versatile and malleable both harmonically and rhythmically, able to not only follow what Lundqvist sets up but extend it and, in turn, push her to new limits. This is a tremendously interesting album that reveals new subtleties every time you listen to it. I’ve heard it three times now, and I’m still hearing things I didn’t hear the first two times. Highly recommended…and you can bet I’ll have Anna Lundqvist on my radar from here on.
Lynn René Bayley