Lena Jonsson – Places
Playing With Music – 2018
Within ten seconds of playing the first track on this album, I found myself whisked away to another place. It’s not something that I find necessary to enjoy music, but I relish the experience when it happens. In this case, it stirred me out of a wintery and dreary ‘Spring’ afternoon in the Mourne Mountains, to an open plain in Montana where we were trying our best to cap feral horses in 30-degree heat. When I looked down to see that the name of the album I held in my hand was called ‘Places’, I knew that I had made an immediate connection with the latest work from Lena Jonsson.
I love the balance between virtuosity and musicality on this album. Jonsson can play, there is no doubt about that, but she never attempts to outshine the tune itself or the players around her. She has every right to, of course, it’s her name on the cover! No, thankfully her playing ability is matched by an abundance of taste, not only in her compositions, but an obvious enjoyment of playing with both her usual accompanists Erik Ronström & Kristofer Sundström, and an impressive list of guest musicians from different genres.
Although renowned for her work on the Swedish folk scene, Lena Jonsson’s music really knows no borders. Much in the same way as the likes of Béla Fleck or Chris Thile, she seems to have shirked off the traditional sense of her native folk music, with an appetite to digesting as many sounds from across the globe as possible. I state that with regret, my knowledge of Swedish folk music is lacking somewhat, so although I love the freshness of Jonsson’s sound, I would like at some stage to be pointed in the direction of her playing true Swedish folk, purely for comparison! I would hedge a bet that the first part of Brakpolskan comes close, but it’s not long before it too can’t be reined in by traditional form.
As much as I enjoy this album’s progress, its evolution in its intensity, track eight Fri I Gaspeise comes just at the right time. The lengthened intro from the piano acts as a moment of calm before it and the fiddle dance wonderfully in harmony for the next four minutes.
At this stage, many albums would be beginning to experience their weaker material. Instead, Esset shows that these guys are just warming up. Possibly my favourite track of the album. Certainly at this stage. The arrangement is absolutely delicious, each instrument having its own part to play, never stepping on each other’s toes. There is a massive contrast then to 34an and it’s driving and ever modulating bass that for some reason thinks it wouldn’t be out of place on a Mike Oldfield record. There is a wonderful tightness to this piece even though it is full to the brim with exciting improvisation.
There really is no better way to finish the album than Andra Våningen. It’s is the perfect bow out to all involved. But that will only last a while as this is an album I will be reaching for again very soon. I have a feeling that it will be one of those instrumental albums I will put on in the background whilst I try and get things done, only to realise that by the time it’s over, my chores haven’t progressed quite so much as I would like. For ‘Places’ is a variable blend of delicate subtleties that will draw you in, and before you know it, leave you in a daydream-like state while as it plays.
I can only hope that as Lena Jonsson continues her worldly travels that she makes it somewhere near the Mourne Mountains soon. I can only imagine that as perfect as I think this album is, it takes on a whole new lease of life when performed live.