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Rigmor Gustafsson: Alone With the Music

By Published: August 5, 2008
AAJ: Alone With You really showcases your songwriting skills. How long did it take for the album to come together?

RG: We recorded it in three days, but before that I took a month off to write most of the songs. I also had three or four songs lying around that I fixed a little.

Rigmor GustafssonAAJ: Did you record more songs than those included on the album?

RG: Yes, maybe they'll appear on another album.

AAJ: Do you have a favorite song among the tracks?

RG: I do, but it changes all the time. Right now it's "It's All There."

AAJ: Do you find that songwriting comes naturally to you? Do the moments of inspiration flow steadily?

RG: Yes, the inspiration for writing the music flows steadily and I'm very happy about that, but it's harder with the lyrics. I really need time and space for that.

AAJ: "In My World" is a beautiful song. There is a definite haunting quality to the melody and the vocal phrasing that's indicative of what a listener can expect with the whole album—an experience reminiscent of being in an intimate jazz club. Was that your intention when recording this album?

RG: Oh, thank you. I must admit that I really didn't have any clear intention like that, but it makes me happy to hear that your experience of my music seems to be good.

AAJ: When you listen to music, what is it that you connect with a beautiful melody? Poignant lyrics, or is it a combination of things?

RG: Most of the time it's a combination of lyrics, harmonies, melody and rhythm, but it can also be specifically just one thing. Also it's kind of weird; even though I'm a vocalist I sometimes enjoy listening to instrumental music more because that lets me interpret the music in other ways.

AAJ: Yes, instrumental music can be just as communicative as vocal interpretation. When you are writing lyrics and creating your music, what do you hope the listener will gain from hearing it?

RG: I just hope that I can give something that stays, something that gives a deeper experience in one way or another.

Rigmor GustafssonAAJ: How do you feel your music and sound have evolved since your first album?

RG: My songs are a little easier now. On my first albums I was quite concerned about challenging my band. I was really thinking about, for instance, using chords and chord changes that I knew they thought were cool... Now I don't think so much, I'm just a little bit more concerned that my songs should feel good for me to sing and not only fun (and challenging) for the musicians to play.

AAJ: Your quintet was formed in New York in 1994. Why did you decide to return to Stockholm?

RG: I had to. My visa was running out, I didn't have any money and I got an offer to teach at the Royal Music College in Stockholm, so I simply thought it was time to go back. But I missed New York like maniac the first months.

AAJ: What is the jazz scene like in Stockholm compared to New York?

RG: There are a lot of great musicians but not so many places to play at.

AAJ: Do you have a favorite venue?

RG: I love the mood at the different clubs in New York but I also really like, for instance, the different Kultur Centers in Germany—great stages, great sound, great audience. Actually, as long as there's good sound I'm usually quite happy.

AAJ: Do you prefer smaller venues to the larger venues?

RG: Both—I think it's perfect to mix.

AAJ: You have performed with so many visionaries, including, Fred Hersch, Bobo Stenson, Palle Danielsson, and Avishai Cohen. In particular, what was it like to work with such an amazing bassist as Avishai?

RG: Wonderful. He's a fantastic bassist and, just like me, he loves Stevie Wonder. When we were jamming just duo, we both sang—he was playing the bass and we were playing Stevie songs... Wow, I realize I miss that time in New York...

AAJ: Is there anyone with whom you would like to work and have not yet had the chance?

RG: [I] Wouldn't mind singing with Brad Mehldau... or in Wayne Shorter's band...But I'm also very, very happy that I've had the opportunity to work with, for instance, Jacky Terrasson and Eric Harland.

Rigmor GustafssonAAJ: Are you currently on tour, and will you be returning to the United States any time soon?

RG: Currently [July 2008], I'm doing mostly festival gigs with my quartet. I'll basically be on tour the whole time from September to December but only in Europe—nothing planned in the US right now, but I'm sure I'll be there sooner or later.

AAJ: Apart from Alone With You, are you working on any other projects or collaborations with any other artists?

RG: I am. For instance, this fall I'll do a tour with Tomonao Hara and Satoshi Inoue, another tour with the Frankfurt Big Band, and concerts with the Danish Radio Band, to name some projects. The main part of my concerts is with my own quartet but I also enjoy doing other things.

AAJ: The excellence of your work has been acknowledged by your albums going gold and the awards and accolades you have garnered. Is that at all a validation to your career?

RG: Well, I get a lot of gigs nowadays, but personally I feel that my own sense of success doesn't necessarily have to do with what other people think. I can feel very satisfied with something that doesn't get much attention at all, or I get a lot of praise for something that I don't think is so special. I have my own validation scale.

Selected Discography

Rigmor Gustafsson, Alone With You (ACT, 2007)
Rigmor Gustafsson, On My Way to You (ACT, 2006)
Rigmor Gustafsson, Close to You (ACT, 2004)
Rigmor Gustafsson, I Will Wait for You (ACT, 2003)
Rigmor Gustafsson, Rigmor Gustafsson Live (Prophone Records, 2000)
Rigmor Gustafsson, Plan #46 (Prophone Records, 1998)
Rigmor Gustafsson, In the Light of Day (Prophone Records, 1997)

Photo Credits
Top Photo: Steven Haberland
Bottom Photo: Jörg Grosse Gelderman

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