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The Forge Players ft Freddie Wadling – Flow my teares




The Forge Players were kind of a supergroup of Swedish string musicians. The quintet included members of several contemporary chamber music ensembles and symphony orchestras as well as viola player Mikael Marin from the amazing folk band Väsen. In 1998, they released their only album, Flow my teares, which contains renditions of music by Renaissance master composer John Dowland.

In contrast to many versions of Dowlands music, and certainly so compared to the lute and voice setting for which the songs were originally written, The Forge Players’ interpretations are powerful, dark and sometimes quite heavy (as in What if I never speed?). Featured in a few songs each are singers Mikael Samuelsson and Freddie Wadling.

Samuelsson was at that time probably best known for doing the title part in the musical The Phantom of the Opera, in a production that ran in Stockholm for several years (I did actually see that show once). Freddie Wadling’s career began in several punk band in the 1970’s, and he went on to become one of the most unique singers in Sweden, performing avantgarde, rock, and many other genres, in bands like Cortex, The Flesh Quartet and Blue For Two, and as a solo artist. His a capella rendition of the title track on this album is just incredible!

Sadly, Freddie Wadling passed away yesterday at the age of 64.




NPR’s Tiny desk concerts

The American radio channel NPR has for several years been making a series entitled Tiny desk concerts, in which artists do short performances live, not in a regular radio studio but behind a desk in an office. More than 400 such shows have been made, and the videos are available online.


This is a true goldmine of music, including a multitude of genre like jazz, pop, funk and country, but also classical string quartets, improv, afrobeat, flamenco, and classical and folk music from all around the world. Every concert lasts between around 10 and 25 minutes. Below I embed some of my favorite shows, but I strongly urge you all to go through the massive archives and fine your own favorites.


The Roma brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia from Romania puts on a highly intense show, as always.



Paolo Angeli from Sardinia takes the prize for the weirdest instrument, with his heavily modified baritone guitar that’s fitted with several sets of strings, foot controlled hammers to play bass lines, effect units, and much more.



The Kronos Quartet are magnificent as usual.


One-of-a-kind double bass virtuoso Renaud Garcia-Fons did an amazing solo performance.


Somehow the 21 (!) musicians and two cheerleaders that form Mucca Pazza managed to squeeze in behind (and on) the desk, and even found space to do choreographys for their hilarious take on marching band music.


So Percussion picked up various objects from the office, including coffee mugs and an amplified cactus (!), and used them as instruments in their concert.

Blood Sweat Drum + Bass – On the road to Damascus


The Danish ensemble Blood Sweat Drum + Bass is not exactly a big band, but rather a huge band. Comprising nearly 30 members, they are almost twice as many as an ordinary big band. The band includes a a horn section of course, multiple bassists, up to four (!) drummers/percussionists, guitars, keyboards, two vocalists, and even a live electronics player!
Their conductor and composer (and occasional harmonica soloist) Jens Christian Jensen fuses big band jazz with rock and various forms of electronic music. The excellent 2012 album On the road to Damascus is heavily inspired by classical Syrian music, and features the Syrian guest soloists Essam Rafea and Moslem Rahal, playing oud and nay respectively. Jensen’s compositions combine a live electronic solo with inspiration from Ellington in the piece Oud indigo, and borrow Jimi Hendrix’s riffs in Damascus crosstown traffic.


This is like no other big band album I have heard, and I highly recommend it.




Here is my Lira review of the album:

Danska BSD+B gör verkligen skäl för benämningen storband; de är hela 25 musiker ledda av kompositören och munspelaren Jens Christian Jensen. Musiken på denna deras femte skiva är inspirerad av Jensens vistelser i Syrien, och två syriska virtuoser på oud respektive ney är gästsolister i de flesta låtar. Även en av de fyra slagverkarna spelar flera arabiska instrument.
Det finns dock också gott om inslag från rock, elektronisk musik (som bandnamnet antyder) och givetvis jazz. Den fyndiga titeln Oud indigo är förstås en blinkning till Ellington men låten i fråga innehåller en lång duett mellan oud och live-elektronik. Bluesy gnaoui hämtar rytmer från gnawa och förgylls av ett bluesigt munspelssolo. Damascus crosstown traffic lånar grunden från Jimi Hendrix låt Crosstown traffic men övergår på ett mycket snyggt sätt till ett arabiskinspirerat tema. Självklart får bandets gitarrist här stort utrymme före ett kraftigt distat solo.
Musiken är mycket omväxlande och stundtals oerhört tung. Jensen har skrivit riktigt snygga melodier men det kanske starkaste jobbet ligger i de komplexa arrangemangen. On the road to Damascus liknar ingen annan skiva jag har hört, och är definitivt något som alla som gillar nyskapande musik bör kolla upp!