Björn Arkö – saxophone
Björn and I started our studies at KMH at the same time in 2011, we graduated the same time and we also applied to the masters program together. We have been attending a lot of the same lessons together and Björn was always the brightest and most distinguished student in the room. Besides being a prodigious saxophone player, he always had the most knowledge in music theory and analysis. He would know answers to questions that nobody had even heard about. He was the nerdy kind of guy who would think about saxophone licks first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening and his eyes would light up as soon as anybody mentioned Michael Brecker. In my opinion, he is one of the most spectacular young musicians on the Swedish jazz scene – he is technically flawless, innately talented, unlimitedly creative, hardworking and dedicated to improving his skills. He is an excellent composer and very often his solos on my songs were like his composition on my composition. He is a Musician with all his being and the love he has for music is shining through every note he plays. I am truly honored to have Björn playing in my band.
Simon Berggren – piano
Simon Berggren is the newest member of MaiGroup. In the beginning of my studies at KMH I heard so much about him from different people but Simon was like a phantom – everyone was talking about his amazing piano playing but I never saw him, he was never around. In 2012, I asked him to sub for our piano player Rasmus Lindelöw at Muhu Future Music Festival “Juu jääb…” in Estonia. That was the first time we met and played together. I was intrigued by his charisma, his pristine energy and his quiet nature. Simon is an observer – he is very sensitive, thoughtful and empathetic. His knowledge is so broad and conversations with him often leave me awed by the depth, sincerity and heartfulness of such a young man. He puts all that beauty and tenderness into his playing. When we play, he closes his eyes and gives every note a meaning. Simon has brought so much life into my music for which I will always be grateful.
Jonathan Lundberg – drums
Jonathan was the first person I invited into the band. He was brought into my life by my bass teacher Robert Sundin who introduced us. At first, Jonathan and I started jamming together and spent many long nights in the drum “dungeon” practicing just bass and drums and working on odd meters, keeping the time, staying in the “pocket” and exploring different perceptions of timing – bass note before, on, or after the bass drum. We learned to know each other’s playing and aesthetic preferences, so nowadays words are absolutely unnecessary. Jonathan knows what my music needs. Drummer Bengt Stark once said about the two of us together: “Rhythm section of the century”. Jonathan was exactly the player I was looking for – he is groovy, steady and interactive, his playing is tasteful, creative and he is always a reliable engine for the band.
His playing technique is absolutely mindblowing and therefore he is able to play the most advanced things on his instrument. That said, he is one of the best drummers I’ve ever played with.
Calle Stålenbring – guitar
The hardest part of putting the new MaiGroup together was finding the right guitar player. Luckily Jonathan introduced me to Calle who I instantly connected with. He is very charming, warm, funny, polite and has many other good qualities as a person but when I heard him play his guitar, I was immediately amazed. Calle has the rare combination of being able to play the most simple and beautiful melodies which are essential in my music, while also possessing a heavier approach and being able to play the most complex and technically difficult musical passages absolutely faultlessly. There’s a lot of Allan Holdsworth (who we both love) influence in his playing but Calle has a recognizable voice of his own. Calle is one of my favorite guitar players in the world and it’s always such a heart fulfilling experience to play with him. He is enormously gifted, melodic and sensitive; he interacts and leaves space if needed, he’s technically proficient and very often takes the initiative and comes up with great ideas. We have this kind of musical telepathy – he has a clarity in which he sees most things, including me. I am really impressed by his ability to communicate emotion through his playing and I’m thankful for all the heart he has put into my music.
Through the years MaiGroup has grown from separate players into a band. Time has polished off some edges and we have all grown as people and developed as musicians. There is a deeper understanding within the group and we play music for the same reasons. There has never been any major dramas or misunderstandings within the members in MaiGroup today but I do remember that while I was trying out different players in order to find the right ones, changing some of them was a pretty painful process. I could not handle musicians whose creativity was astonishing but who were unprofessional beyond words – not learning the songs prior to the rehearsals or sometimes not even one day before the tour began. It was always hard to tell someone that I think we should go separate ways. Luckily nobody took it personally. When I finally found Calle, Jonathan, Björn and Simon – I knew that everyone in the band is a keeper! As my life and musical career has taken some crazy turns and I am settling in on a new continent – MaiGroup will carry on as much as possible. These boys are my people and we make good music together. I am already working on new songs and planning our third album.
Time will tell what will happen. But all I know is that I love this band. The world is small and music is an international language connecting people all over the planet.
Forgiveness is for the strong
When I started studying at KMH I remember discovering Jonathan Kreisberg’s album “Shadowless” (2011) and being totally blown away. I listened to his music a lot back then, so now I can see the influence of his music in my compositions. It was “new” music to me. I have always been listening to music from the 60’s and jazz-fusion bands from the 70’s and 80’s but Jonathan sounded very innovative to me: his guitar tone, his phrasing, the arrangements and the drum grooves were very often kind of pop/rock-influenced which I really liked! It was all something I hadn’t heard before. I mix different musical genres in my music all the time, so I felt connected to Jonathan’s music.
I was especially fond of his song “Stir the Stars” which I can now relate to my song called “Forgiveness is for the strong”. “Stir the Stars” starts with a steady drum groove and then piano and bass join in with a unison line. I thought it was a cool idea so I used it in my own composition.
I believe that love is the greatest weapon in the world and not because I’m naive but because I’ve tried everything else. The world is hurting more than ever and people don’t seem to learn from history. I don’t think that a blind hatred, cruelty or execration is ever justified. Someone once said that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. What I would really like to see in the world, is more truth, acceptance and forgiveness. I know it’s not easy to forgive someone who in seconds has destroyed a trust which took years to build, but I also know that there is so much freedom in forgiveness and letting go, especially in forgiving yourself for things you didn’t know you didn’t know, before you learned them. I also hope that people I’ve hurt, will one day forgive me too.
“Forgiveness is for the strong” is a quite fierce composition, starting off with a drum&bass influenced drum groove that I wanted Jonathan to play, until the piano comes in as an introduction to a busy bass and piano unison line which is strongly connected to the composition. The B section is like silence before the storm – it gives room to the listener before it winds up into an intense solo section. There are two solo forms: the first one is on the same harmony as the B section, the second solo has a different harmonic structure to take up the energy even more, until the breakdown to the intro again.
Wellspring (to R.V.)
“Wellspring” is a song I wrote with a dedication to my first bass teacher Raul Vaigla. He is a man who has had a huge impact on me and my playing – he is such a melodic bass player who is equally amazing as a solo bass player as well as a sideman in other bands. In fact, he is the reason I wanted to start playing bass guitar in the first place, after I saw him play at Tõnis Mägi’s 55th jubilee concert back in 2002. The joy with which he was playing music was unknown to me before I first touched the electric bass at the age of 16. When Raul Vaigla became my teacher in 2007, he started feeding me Led Zeppelin, Weather Report, Uzeb & Alain Caron, Jeff Berlin, Tony Levin, Deep Purple, Tal Wilkenfeld, Bill Frisell, Jeff Beck and many others. We worked well together and he has remained by my side as a friend and mentor.
Even during my studies at KMH, I asked Raul to be my teacher and luckily the school provided me with the opportunity. His continuous support and encouragement means a lot to me. Raul Vaigla himself, is still even after all these years, one of my favorite bass players. His fretless bass tone is so warm and beautiful and has been an inspiration to finding my own voice on fretless bass. Therefore, the only song on MaiGroup’s album which I played on fretless, was written to Raul. Those years under his guidance and supervision gave me a strong foundation for all my further discoveries in music. “Wellspring” means that we should never forget where we come from – it’s important to be grateful for our roots and as the music career starts to grow we should always remember who was there on the ground floor with us.
As Raul introduced me to Weather Report, the album “Heavy Weather” (1977) is still one of my favorite records. The song “A Remark You Made” is like an anthem to me which I haven’t even dared to play with any band. However, “Wellspring” contains a lot of influence from that song. It was recorded with Wille Alin on drums (read more about Wille under the “Guest artists” chapter, page 24).
When we started rehearsing the song, I played them “A Remark You Made” and said that this is the feeling I want in the song. “Wellspring” starts with an Eb pedal where Simon is playing Zawinul-like fills. Then there’s a bass theme until saxophone takes over and leads into bass and saxophone solos. Björn takes his solo into the bass-sax unison section. Then is the last theme and outro. The biggest challenge for me is always the intonation on my fretless but I believe that my violin studies when I was a kid really developed my hearing on a higher level so I hear when I’m off the pitch and fix it right away. The more I play that instrument the more confident I feel on it.
Sweet Baby Sebastian feat. Greg Leisz
On the 4th of October in 2013 I became an aunt to the most amazing little boy named Sebastian – the most precious gift my sister could ever give me. I used to be a person who wasn’t particularly fond of children, but my whole world changed when I saw something so fragile and intact, so closely. Sebastian has taught me the greatest lessons of unconditional love and he is an incredible source of joy and light. The moment I held him in my arms for the first time, I gave myself a promise to be the best auntie in the whole wide world. I started with writing him a song. The title is inspired by James Taylor’s song “Sweet Baby James” that he dedicated to his nephew James.
By that time, I had just taken Staffan Linder’s country music ensemble at KMH, I had met American country artist Doug Seegers and I had become an ardent admirer of country music (while it seems to me that most jazz musicians despise country music, if they only knew that Charlie Parker was a huge fan of Hank Williams and Miles Davis absolutely adored Willie Nelson…) like Alison Krauss & Union Station, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, bluegrass wonderchildren from Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers etc. So, “Sweet Baby Sebastian”, a song written to a little cowboy, has a lot of influence from my discovery of country music. The song has a guest artist, Greg Leisz, about whom you can read further on in this thesis (page 25-27). The song is based on this guitar riff below, there’s also a bass melody with saxophone joining in the B section.
Something magical feat. Håkan Broström
The idea of writing “Something magical” came when double bass player Tom-Eddye Nordén and I took the challenge to both write one duo song for electric bass and double bass per week. Every Wednesday morning we would get together in a studio and record those two songs. For one of those sessions I wrote this particular song and brought it to the studio. That composition was in 3/4 and electric bass was supposed to play dotted quarter note chords while double bass would play the melody. Good idea in theory, sounded great in Sibelius program with a metronome, but in real life – absolute failure… Without a rhythm instrument it sounded like I was playing long notes in 4/4 and the melody was totally off.
I rearranged the song for MaiGroup – piano plays dotted quarter notes while guitar plays every beat of the bar. I came up with a busier bass groove and wanted to have a cool drum beat whichwouldn’t make the time signature too obvious – I just wanted to do something different from everything else I’ve done before. Jonathan read my mind and came up with this drum groove.
Table of contents :
Philosophy of my art
Gathering the band together
Björn Arkö – saxophone
Simon Berggren – piano
Jonathan Lundberg – drums
Calle Stålenbring – guitar
1. Painters of the night
2. Forgiveness is for the strong
3. Wellspring (to R.V.)
4. Sweet Baby Sebastian feat. Greg Leisz
6. Something magical feat. Håkan Broström
7. 5th of May 1962
8. Truth is One
9. Seven years
Wille Alin – drums
Håkan Broström – soprano saxophone
Greg Leisz – pedal steel guitar
Recording, mixing and mastering
Life after “You”