Skip to content


Rigmor Gustaffson
Written by Lee Zhao   
Published on Saturday, 26 July 2008
3 stars

Jazz and Blues Festival
At the Spiegeltent; Run ended

WHEN YOU THINK OF SWEDEN, many things may jump into your head - but it's fair to say that jazz music isn't usually one of them.  However, Rigmor Gustafsson, the eponymous vocalist of the night's performance and one of many new-generation Swedish jazz artists, affirms the existence of a lively Swedish jazz scene.

Backed up by her all-Scandinavian band of Jonas Ostholm on piano, Christian Spering on bass and Jonas Holgersson on drums, Rigmor's quartet perform in a style markedly different to the traditional New Orleans sound, with the majority of her programme consisting of self-compositions taken from her latest CD.  But from the land that gave us IKEA, did anyone expect Swedish jazz to be conventional?

Notably though, there were two Burt Bacharach songs in the programme, pointing to the music's regular forays into easy-listening territory... or, dare I say it - pop.  Indeed, there were occasions where the music could almost be described as ABBA singing jazz.  The generic texture of Rigmor's higher vocal register, combined with simple piano melodies, gave the impression at first of manufactured easy-listening.

But as the evening progressed and the sun disappeared below the stained-glass windows of the Spiegeltent, Rigmor strayed more frequently in her richer, more interesting and mature lower register.  It was in this range that the slightly over-amplified speakers did her vocal abilities greatest justice, showcasing a tantalising depth to her voice.  As an ensemble too, the quartet gathered momentum near the end of the programme, with a sense that all the pieces were finally coming together.  It was unfortunate that thanks to the Spiegeltent's tardy opening-up of the venue, the programme ended a quarter-hour short of its advertised 90 minutes, just as an atmosphere was beginning to build.

The highlight of the night was Jonas Holgersson's five-minute drum solo, which stole the limelight from the two songs it segued between and, just maybe, the entire performance.  His improvisation was a technically flawless, well-structured display, full of complex rhythms which avoided becoming repetitive or predictable.  There was a moment, as the floor tom was introduced, that the drum solo almost became tuneful.  Christian Spering also produced a commendable performance on the double bass, fully committing himself to producing some well-crafted solos as well an interesting bass line the rest of the time.

On the night, the weak link was Jonas Ostholm on piano - a shame as, given the composition of the band, it was the only instrument that could provide counterpoint to Rigmor's vocals.  Never developing into more than single line melodies punctuated by clear-cut chords, at first it felt like a well-trained classical pianist experimenting, not a jazz specialist playing ad lib. The first few improvisations felt rather contrived and disconnected from the songs in which they were contained.  But Jonas too ended strongly, as he began to weave more motifs and capture more of the essence of each individual song into his piano solos.  It was also refreshing that he did not shy away from intriguing dissonances, which provided much-needed contrast to the more easy-listening aspects of the night.

Overall, there is much to praise in Rigmor Gustafsson and her band, and it was clear from the applause that many in the Spiegeltent left with a feeling of money well spent.  But their new-generation easy-listening jazz is not for everyone, and this will no doubt have been a forgettable session for some.  For me at least, her inoffensive songs - neither unconventional nor quirky - meant I'll associate the night more with ABBA than IKEA.  If nothing else, though, Rigmor has successfully introduced Swedish jazz to a wider audience; and even if I can't quite recall the detail of the music, I have now to recognise its existence.

<< Samuel James   The Syncopators (From Mel... >>


These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2008.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

Current reviews >>

Edinburgh 2013

Coming to the Fringe this year?  We can help you make the most of your time.  Learn about Edinburgh's summer Festivals and plan your visit around the city's major events. 

Find out more >>

Top Reviews

[ A-Z ] [ Recent ] [ Best ]