Yesterday I made the journey from Lund to Stockholm to attend a live music performance. Finally. The Seattle-Stockholm Connection – a moniker not exactly of their own choosing but one that has a pleasant ring to it – played an intimate and rewarding (albeit lengthy) show in Gamla Stan, the old town center between central Stockholm and Södermalm. Tucked away in the southeastern corner of Gamla Stan sits a cozy venue known as Musik Valvet, a very modest underground space almost fervently dedicating to supporting local music. Had SSC not been wont for rehearsal time in the preceding weeks, they would have deserved a bigger house. As it went, Musik Valvet played the part quite well.
Ross Eustis, my aforementioned friend and jazz trumpeter, along with dynamic guitarist Gianfranco Mascayamo, led the SSC quintet through two four-song sets, each roughly an hour long. From my limited experience at concerts of young jazz musicians, the phrase “original composition” often reads as a disclaimer. That was not the case last night. Seattle-Stockholm Connection played five or so originals, all fantastic. The opener, a composition by Gian entitled Por Ahora, immediately grabbed my attention on the first few hits. The band picked up steam and as they got into a groove, I closed my eyes to move closer to the music.
Ross’s tune Nordique stood out as the most memorable part of the evening. Written during his stay in Sweden, Nordique struck home as a contemplative investigation of the Scandinavian ethos. Several young gentlemen from the Royal Conservatory of Music shared my sentiments, expressing to Ross at the break how much the enjoyed the piece. “It’s like the Swedish blues,” one remarked. “Every Swede has it in his soul.” To portray a side of Sweden’s personality and have that musical interpretation validated is no small feat.
Ross on trumpet impressed as the group’s lead voice, proving himself to be not only an insightful songwriter but also a vigorous horn player. Ross picked his spots for experimentation well, although on some of the slower ballads there were moments when I wanted him to slow down and croon a bit more. Gian lent a calmer passion to the evening, captivating with smooth and evocative chords. Pianist Gunnar played competently despite his distracting scat moaning during his solos. Ross later informed me that instrument players are taught this technique in order to facilitate pauses and better use of musical space (silence). Reasonable, but nevertheless an unwanted element of the performance. In the rhythm section, bassist Bjorn came off as somewhat aloof; in other words, as a typical bass player. On drums, Hannes displayed a great degree of talent but was at times a bit overeager. Sometimes less is more, even in music. Overall, it was a wonderful evening and a grand introduction to music in Stockholm.