The latest concert streamed by the MDCH is Elysian Fields in FIKA. It is avante-garde Scandinavian jazz at its best, with most of the works selected from their album of the same name. Led by Jenny Eriksson the founder of Elysian Fields, for this concert the ensemble consisted of Matt McMahon – piano , Matt Keegan – sax , Susie Bishop – voice/violin , Jacques Emery – double bass and Dave Goodman on drums in an exciting, challenging concert magnificently played.
The album and this concert of FIKA is an expression of Eriksson’s Swedish heritage and the devotion that she and her Elysian Fields colleagues have for Scandinavian music in a striking way. Fika, very important in Swedish culture, can roughly be translated as pausing to refresh, making time for friends and colleagues, together with something to eat, in a spirit of caring. Electronic viola da gamba is melded with soprano voice and other assorted instruments with a very jazz like feel – Analogous sonic landscapes to the deep, stark aural space of Scandinavian jazz and its modal beauty are explored. obscuring the boundaries between world music, jazz and chamber music. It is noted that several pieces are arrangements of Scandinavian folk and jazz.
Låt till Far (Tune to my Father) was written by the Swedish fiddler Pers Erik Olsson for what would have been the 100th birthday of his father, Pers Olof Olsson, who also a well-known fiddler. Fiddle playing is ‘in the blood’ for Pers Erik’s son, Pers Hans Olsson, who is also a fiddler. Eriksson notes that this tune would traditionally be played by a small violin ensemble. With Fika, the melody, which would normally be performed by a small violin ensemble, has been arranged by Andersson and McMahon for a gracefully combined trio of violin, gamba and piano that flows and ripples with the piano proving the underlying rhythm.
Living is a Jan Gunnar Hoff work, written in dark dreary December. This is the first time an Australian group has recorded his material and there is a definite aural landscape of Norway. It is quite upbeat with an infectious and bouncy melody and the various instruments blend in delightful harmony.
Alice Chance’s smooth, creamy Shadow, Shadow was commissioned for Elysian Fields by Michael Lawrence-Slater and was given a stirring performance.
Elysium III was written by Matt Keegan for the entire ensemble which was followed by a delicate piano solo that sparkles like crystal (or should that be snow?).. performed by Matt McMahon. This morphed into
Frid på jord, a lament by Swedish folk singer Sofia Karlsson, arranged by Matt McMahon, often heard at Christmas, combining jazz harmonies with classical clean musical lines, with Susie Bishop singing beautifully.
The Garden Party by Jenny Eriksson was soulful and smooth.
Vi ska ställa till en roliger dans is a vigorous traditional melody that has been used as a round dance-singing game since the 1800s in Stockholm, and particularly performed at Midsummer. The piece had an infectious,catchy rhythm and it was obvious that the ensemble greatly enjoyed playing it.
Hoff’s second piece, as suggested by its title, Meditatus, is also arranged by Eriksson and is a contemplative, intense piece using the words of the Kyrie from the Latin Mass sung by Susie Bishop with her profound vocals. It has a delicate piano opening, joined by Eriksson’s electric viola da gamba and Max Keegan on a relaxed yet controlled saxophone.
Commissioned by Eriksson, Keegan’s vibrant, shimmering Cold Soul acoustically depicts a spiky landscape of grandiose ice-bound mountains melting into a free-spirited improvisation around a two-note theme and a crisply dotted four-note undertow, revealing the rich and varied many layers of the various instruments. It is sharp and spiky, with the piano accompanying the rest of the ensemble.
Esbjörn Svensson’s Belive Beleft Below is a love-song built on an ascending arpeggio figure. Like Jan Gunnar Hoff, this late Swedish jazz musician’s first experience of music was in the classical style. As a teenager, he too pursued an interest in rock music and started a few garage bands with classmates, before returning to classical music and making his way towards jazz, entering music college aged 16, followed by studies at the Royal College of Music, Stockholm.
Here, Eriksson has arranged Belive Beleft Below for voice, saxophone and gamba with drums and piano. Susie Bishops’ voice is wistful and passionate, and the music slowly builds like a swelling river.
Go buy the album and enjoy this intriguing music!
RUNNING TIME 70 minutes no interval
Ensemble for broadcast –
Matt McMahon – Piano
Matt Keegan – Sax
Susie Bishop – Voice/violin
Jacques Emery – Double Bass
Dave Goodman – Drums
Jenny Eriksson – Electric Viola da gamba
Traditional – Låt till Far (Tune to my father). Arranged by Matt McMahon based on an arrangement by Tommie Andersson
Jan Gunnar Hoff – Living. Arranged by Jenny Eriksson Matt Keegan –
Elysium III Matt McMahon – improvised piano solo
Frid På Jord (Peace on Earth). Arranged by Matt McMahon
Jenny Eriksson – The Garden Party
Alice Chance – Shadow
Traditional – Vi ska ställa till en roliger dans (We are going to put on a fun dance). Arranged by Susie Bishop
Jan Gunnar Hoff – Meditatus. Arranged by Jenny Eriksson Matt Keegan –
Matt Keegan Cold Soul Esbjörn Svensson –
Believe Bereft Below. Arranged by Jenny Eriksson