As an integral part of the band Frifot (with Ale Moller and Per Gudmundson) and the Nordan project (with Ale Moller and others), as well as numerous other side projects, Lena Willmark has been a fixture on the Swedish folk scene since the late 1970s. Windogur, a set of ten original compositions commissioned by the city of Stockholm (in its role of Cultural Capital of Europe ’98), was first performed live as part of a series of concerts entitled “Ladies Next,” and only later translated to CD.
And how fortunate that the translation did take place, bringing with it an opportunity for those of us unfamiliar with Willemark’s work to utterly immerse ourselves in her beguiling fusion of traditional Swedish folk music and that most American of musical styles, jazz. While the two styles may seem completely alien to one another at first blush, the ten tracks on this CD prove otherwise.
Willemark’s stunning voice, backed by strings, piano, and percussion, easily swings between the soulful and sultry vocals of jazz to the keening, clarion calls and cries of Swedish folk. So too the music. Consider the cool, jazzy piano intros to “Dagen reser sig” and “An negg nig,” either of which you might expect to hear in a smoky New Orleans jazz club… until Willemark begins to sing and the violins kick in, adding a dash of icy Sweden to the mix. It’s an unexpectedly perfect mesh of styles — a joy to fans of either.
“Eddji / The Edge,” is perhaps the most Nordic-sounding song on the CD, its strident violin and percussion playing off Willemark’s shrill cries and guttural calls to great effect. It’s a chilling piece, quite aptly titled. An odd little number, “The Blackbird,” follows. Entirely instrumental, the first half of the tune is pure folk, the instruments mimicking the cries of a blackbird. The second half dissolves into a jazz-tinged piano and violin interlude, markedly different from the preceding half, but no less wondrous.
From the cascading waterfall of notes that opens the first track, “Mes ig sag an,” to the closing tremble of “Dagen reser sig,” Willemark’s talent and innovation ripple across the tracks, leaving behind an eloquent body of work in her wake. Succumb to the undertow — you won’t regret it!
(Amigo Musik, 2000)