Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga – Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2015

A fresh and slightly rainy evening welcomed those, who decided to attend Copenhagen Jazz Festival’s 2015 most thrilling event – Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s swing concert. The public started gathering already around 6 p.m. at the muddy field of Plaenen outdoor stage at Tivoli Amusement Park.

A couple of seconds after 22 the first sounds came from the stage and it was no one else but Mr Frank Sinatra announcing “the world’s best singer Tony Bennett” from the historical recording. Soon after that the 88-year old “cat” and his 59 years younger stage companion, pop megastar Lady Gaga entered the stage. Starting with 2 duets the couple put the audience on fire right away.

Tony Bennett Lady Gaga BLOG Roger Berg Big Band 2015

First to notice was the musical set-up, since unlike expected by some, the stars were accompanied by two separate rhythm sections plus 1 trumpet, 1 tenor sax and even Hammond organ. With this repertoire a full size big band would seem more than accurate and to our big-band-loving ears it seemed like there was maybe something missing on the musical side… Yet the fine combination of musicians, with Mr Harold Jones on drums on Bennett’s side gave a well swinging, top class, thrilling and tight back up to the stars.

Tony Bennett Lady Gaga BLOG Roger Berg Big Band

As Lady Gaga said, she’s used to taking off her clothes on stage and to some of the fans it may appear surprising, that she was not going to do it last night. That’s because last night she was going to sing JAZZ. And so she did in her revue-intense, colorful and dramatic appearances, shouting out powerful phrases in well swinging manner with the electricity known from the hits of the top jazz divas. Delivering songs of this caliber she was still able to flirt with her young audience, that loves her mainly as a pop star and comment back on multiple inserts coming from the crowd in the musical pauses. The one insert hard to comment on was however the clock bells of the City Hall announcing 23, which interrupted her interpretation of “Lush Life”, initially build on a vocal presentation with long breaks. Here the clock forced itself into a duet, giving Gaga some consequences to deal with.

Lady Gaga BLOG Roger Berg Big Band

At another moment she appeared in the iconic pink Marilyn Monroe styled dress to sing… Edith Piaf’s “La vie en rose”, which was not the most expected result of her metamorphosis. Yet the outfit could be considered the best of the ones presented during the evening, leaving her see-through, burlesque inspired, yet obvious and exaggerated dresses far behind. (One could only imagine what Gaga’s version of Monroe’s hit show could be like and that vision is actually far more tempting than her tatooed body squeezed into the neglige-like outfits).

While the young spirit was discussing the melodies with the history of jazz, the history of jazz itself was standing right next to it, taking a trip back into his own and also Sinatra’s hits. A little bit shady in the beginning, Bennett caught the energy after a couple of songs to deliver well composed interpretations. His swing feeling, humor and show talent were breathtaking, especially while taking into account his age. His voice’s “wrinkles” were well compensated with his vocal tactics and covered in an elegant way. Tight, light and funny were the solo blocks by Mr Bennett, who was getting the signs of huge appreciation from the public many times during his numbers.

The most significant observation was that standing in the crowd of mostly young people one could hear them singing along songs like “I Won’t Dance”, “The Lady Is A Trump”, “Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered” and many other swing standards. The value of this artistic cooperation and especially Lady Gaga’s contribution to bringing the swing music to the pop scene and young generations is actually priceless.

The advantage of the events with standing public is that you actually always get standing ovation… but it was well deserved in this particular case. And soon after the long final applause ended, started the long and heavy rain.


Solidarity of Arts – Poland’s biggest jazz show of 2015

This year on the 15th of August Roger Berg Big Band will be one of the artist groups featured in the show Swing+, which is the main event of the festival Solidarity of Arts in Gdansk, Poland.

Dariusz Kula, solidarityofarts.pl

The idea is big – three stages built as one space of a great musical spectacle. A concert presented by many artists who show different pieces of the performance one by one to build one great show. That means creating the experience both for the audience watching it live at the place of the concert and for the ones seeing it on TV during the live transmission, as the cameras will be around all the time to transmit the event in the public TV-channel. All of this happening at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic square, beautifully situated at the riverside, just a couple of blocks away from the seacoast.

Dariusz Kula, solidarityofarts.pl 4Photo by Dariusz Kula, © solidarityofarts.pl

The festival is taking place for the 7th year in a row and previously featured stars like Quincy Jones, Bobby McFerrin, Esperanza Spalding, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Terri Lyne Carrington, Marcus Miller, Leszek Możdżer among others. The director of the show Krzysztof Materna, who is a Polish TV personality, director, actor, producer and comedian, has announced this spring that the topic of the festival’s main show in 2015 will be swing:

Swing+” is the main event of the 2015 Solidarity of Arts festival. It is the first time that a style of jazz (and not a jazz musician) constitutes the title of our event – since 2010 Poland’s biggest outdoor jazz concert of the year. On August 15th we will pay tribute to Swing – the dominant form of American popular music from 1935 to 1946, a style that originated from jazz music of the 1920s. We will also pay tribute to Polish swing hits that will be performed by both legendary Polish vocalists and our esteemed foreign stars, including Grammy Award winners Patti Austin, Kurt Elling and WDR Big Band.

Dariusz Kula, solidarityofarts.pl 3Photo by Dariusz Kula, © solidarityofarts.pl

The conceptual works on this year’s edition of SofA were close in time to the release of the album “Swing Revisited” by Stanislaw Soyka and Roger Berg Big Band, which made it a great opportunity to present this traditional swing material to the public in August. Except for Stanislaw Soyka (read more about the artist and the project here) there is one more prominent Polish jazz singer to appear in front of Roger Berg Big Band – Aga Zaryan.

She has been successful in integrating ambitious artistic goals with popular appeal, recording four albums to date, all of which have earned gold, platinum or multi-platinum status in Poland. In 2008 she was honored with the Polish music industry’s most prestigious prize – the Fryderyk Chopin Award. She was nominated for the title of Woman of The Year 2008 by Gazeta Wyborcza-Wysokie Obcasy, one of Poland’s most influential and widely circulated newspapers. Aga was also named Jazz Vocalist of The Year in the European Jazz Forum Magazine’s yearly Jazz Top readers’ poll in 2007, 2008 and 2009 – agazaryan.com

Aga Zaryan agazaryan.comAga Zaryan, agazaryan.com

During the show you will also see and hear Pasadena Roof Orchestra, New York Voices and the elite of Polish jazz artists: Ewa Bem, Hanna Banaszak, Wojciech Karolak with the band. The admission to the concert is free except for the Golden Circle (tickets 5 PLN), start time: 9 p.m., approximate time of the show: 3 hours. Welcome to Gdansk on the 15 of August 2015!

Dariusz Kula, solidarityofarts.pl 2Photo by Dariusz Kula, © solidarityofarts.pl

Read more about the event at Solidarity of Arts

Swing Revisited – reviews in Sweden

Some of you already know the album “Swing Revisited” created in cooperation with a prominent Polish jazz singer Stanislaw Soyka. Released on the 14 of April 2015 the CD sold gold on the premiere day and has been received very positively in Poland. The singer has been also present with the album in multiple TV and radio programmes, giving many interviews and even serving a taste of the new production. Some of these materials will be featured in the upcoming days on our blog.Swing Revisited album cover

Even though the CD has not been released in other countries so far, we’ve managed to get some reviews on the Swedish side as well. The most recent is the one from Orkester Journalen nr 3 2015 by Per Wikèn.

Orkester Juornalen 3 Swing Revisited

Critic’s review starts in a highly excitied tone, as he is being taken by surprise while listening to the “vocalist of a high caliber”, an artists new to him, who’s coming from the neighbouring Poland. The album recorded in the collaboration with Roger Berg and the Roger Berg Big Band is described as “a string of pearls”, made of the true and immortal hits in a mix of swing, soul, ballads and blues. Author shares his thoughts on different songs, of which he likes the most: Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, Fly Me To The Moon and I’m Just A Lucky So And So, the last of these sung with a well relaxed approach. In Hallelujah I Love Her So the vocal sounds as the song is not exactly in the right key, yet the number is “well swinging”. Artists’ voice in general reminds a little bit of Sinatra’s, Tony Benett’s, Mel Thorme’s and Sammy Davis Jr’s sound. The orchestra gives the vocalist an attentive, yet well balanced support of a high quality, exactly as it does to the other big Swedish and Danish artists during the shows, of which it is well known in the region. The writer recalls also that Roger Berg has Buddy Rich as his role model. Per Wikèn ends his review:

A great balance between singer’s and orchestra’s sound gives a final touch to this recording, which is a true pearl.

A couple of weeks earlier we also got an opinion from the jazz expert and journalist at the newspaper Sydsvenskan Alexander Agrell:

Sydsvenskan.se Swing Revisited

 

To get the essentials:

More about Malmö, jazz, retro and singing: Roger Berg’s big band made a recording with a brilliant Polish singer Stanislaw Soyka. “Swing Revisited” contains well known standards mostly from Ellington/Strayhorn and is a pleasing and well swinging story.
Soyka has Tony Benett’s inclinations, midnight-smooth voice and total control over the songs, puls and his frasing.

Another voice came from the host of the radio program Swingtajm Rolf Karlström, Radio Haninge Direkt from Stockholm. In this interview with Roger Berg Rolf finds a comparison for Soyka in the person of Gunnar ”Siljabloo” Nilsson, trying to define artist’s personality and sound.

Rolf Karlström: I think the singer in some tunes sounds a little bit like Gunnar ”Siljabloo” Nilsson…
Roger Berg: Yes, you are definately right here. He has a very individual expression, he is no singer that we have dozens of. He has a warmth and his own personality in singing which are missing among many young artists these days. This guy has been around for some time and has developed his own style, which is appreciated by many. And there are many people who love him for exactly this voice and this style and when they hear him in this environment they say: Wow, that’s cool to finally hear something like that from you!
Rolf Karlström: And he sounds so relaxed when he sings plus he does have a voice!

The program host points also out great musicians in the band, like the soloist in Night And Day, Vincent Nilsson, playing trombone. The whole interview available in the player below (in Swedish):

Another material – an interview in the program Kulturlådan by Frank Andersson, Helsingborgs närradio 99,2 MHz, with more thoughts around the album and even more positive impressions. A full interview with Roger Berg below, available for those of you who are familiar with Swedish.

Another voice came from a music lover and promoter, working for many years with the jazz society Malmö Hot House and a member in Harry Arnold Society, journalist and blogger Peter Kastensson:

Pekasten.wordpress.com Swing Revisited

Translation:

A few bands in Europe can swing as well as Roger Berg with his big band. But who is Stanislaw Soyka? A composer, pianist, who sings both pop and jazz. He has, so to say, made a come back to jazz. I have not heard about him until Roger Berg told me. A gentleman who “smells jazz” from a distance, when one hears his voice, a beautiful voice. There are singers who have “burned” voice or maybe a “whisky burned” voice. That applies to Stanislaw Soyka. Yet maybe I should rather say “vodka burned” voice, taking into account his homeland…

Next he mentions soloists playing in different numbers, like Let The Good Times Roll – guitar solo, Måns Persson, Caravan – alto sax solo, Claus Sörensen, Love You Madly with tenorsax solo Ed Epstein, Satin Doll – piano solo, Mats Nilsson, next Vincent Nilssons with his trombone solo in Night And Day and Take The ”A-Train with Lasse Lundström’s double bass solo. A full text in Swedish available at Peter’s blog.

We are extremely happy to read and hear all these opinions full of enthusiasm, good vibes and appreciation. Thank you everybody for sharing your thoughts and naturally thank you once again everybody, who took part in the project. Great respect and congratulations to you!

Busy summer

Hello Dear Music Lovers!
Many of you are exactly now enjoying your summer holiday or planning to travel soon to recharge your batteries. The summer is full of fantastic open air events and festivals, so luckily you don’t have to take a break from the music you love 🙂 We are very happy to be a part of a couple of these events, which gives us a pretty condensed schedule in August. Hopefully you will find yourself close enough to take part in some of them. Here comes more info about the first one, welcome!Pildammsteatern, Foto Ewa Levau Malmö stad

Picture of Pildammsteatern by Ewa Levau/Malmö stad

August the 5th – Pildammsteatern in Pildammsparken in Malmö. Here in the legendary amfitheater filled with the great musical memories and fantastic spirit we will have the pleasure of playing the yearly concert for Harry Arnold Society presented in the frames of Sommarscen Malmö. During the concert Roger Berg Big Band will back up two grant receivers. This year we will meet a true legend and a very dedicated swing musician and music promoter, Jan Slottenäs, whose intense work brought the swing music, especially Glenn Miller’s music, to many listeners in Scandinavia and even France. The leader of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, trombonist, conductor and singer has been awarded with Harry Arnold grant for his overall achievements in the big band jazz music.

Glenn Miller Orchestra Scandinavia stor

Glenn Miller Orchestra Scandinavia http://www.glennmillerorchestra.se/

Sadly it has been announced that Jan’s work with his Glenn Miller project is coming to an end. Due to the heavy economical situation the band found it challenging to continue with the activities, as the Band Manager Sven Olof Slottenäs said to Peter Kastensson, also Harry Arnold Society member*. Then this grant, which is an expression of the great respect for the intense and extremely dedicated work with swing music, is coming in a very important moment. It truly becomes an award for all the years of Jan Slottenäs’ work. Congratulations Janne and keep swingin’, no matter what!

The second person to appear with Roger Berg Big Band on the 5th of August is Simon Petersson. The role of a doublebass player in jazz music cannot be more crucial. The board of the Harry Arnold Society saw a true talent and great craft in Simon’s work. As the Chairman of the society Bo Hirche says, it’s a “smart talent with a fantastic feeling for big band music”*. Don’t miss the opportunity to listen to Simon during the concert in Pildammsteatern, when he will borrow the chair from our regular doublebass player Lasse Lundström (another Harry Arnold grant receiver from the year 2012).

simon peterssonSimon Petersson, doublebass player, from artist’s press materials

During this evening the band will also present a couple of music pieces from Harry Arnold’s book. We are even going to have a vocal touch in the program, as there will be our vocal trio presenting some of the Andrews Sisters’ songs. Please give a warm welcome to the newly formed unit, that is developing the idea of the vocal group and working in the area of harmony singing and backup vocals, as well as solo performances. This evening you will see and hear: Katarina Elmberg Jonsson, Dorota Berg and Sandra Marielle Hansson-Cehic, who is subbing for our Danish singer Christina Ölgaard Thomsen. All the ladies present genuine music fascination and have miscallenous experiences. More about the trio soon on our blog.

Roger Berg Big Band Trio rogerberg.com

So save the date and be there with us: Wednesday the 5th of August 2015, Storbandskalas, Pildammsteatern Malmö, the concert starts at 19.00.

Info: This concert is a part of Sommarscen Malmö 10-years anniversary and presents in the cooperation with Harry Arnold Society. You can find out more about the society’s activities at www.harryarnold.se If you want to support this great music appreciation society and take part in many other events, become a member.  You can also get the magazine “Stand by” with many interesting articles, memories and news. More info at the Harry Arnold Society website.

*Quotations come from the magazine “Stand by” nr 2, 2015 by Harry Arnold Society, translation to English by D. Berg