I was recently very fortunate to play with some great jazz musicians on a cruise ship that visited New
Orleans during Mardi Gras (Actually the very first cruise ship to visit since the hurricane). We did not lose any opportunity to soak
up the music of that damaged & crippled city . A (very) late night (and drunken) visit to the bars on Frenchmen
was the highlight of an awesome
evening. The musicians were out of this world, each with their own story to tell. It became obvious that the musicians
that inhabit that city are a remarkable and spirited community. In particular, I was
taken with a Hot Club band we found in a tiny bar, stirring it up in the corner of the bar. A pair of guitarists
took turns ripping it up with Djangoesk solos till the early hours. This was my very recent introduction
into the wonderful world of "Hot Club".
On returning home, I keenly investigated further. I had somehow passed Django by. It was an all-together
too dated sound. Far too happy and jolly. Just not cool. I bought a book and studied some of the tunes
and improvisations. The shock came when I realised how impossibly difficult this music is to play. You need amazing
technique to play this stuff (particularly for continual runs of frantic alternate picking). The tempos are blistering! Further research took
me to the web where I came across the site of an extroadinary Swedish guitarist by the name of Mr Andreas ֢erg. Impressed by the
site and clips I got hold of his album "Young Jazz Guitarist". I put it in my CD player, and promptly
fell off my chair!
I am currently an ֢erg evangelist. I keep playing the album to fellow musicians and friends whose response
nearly always begins with an expletive unsuitable for these pages. There is something fresh and exciting
about what is going on here. Don't take my word for it, visit his site
www.andreas-oberg.com/ . Immaculate
presentation, frightening technique, and some vibrant, fresh recordings that the jazz community ignors at its peril.
There is some pretty
decent composition in there as well.
Andreas kindly offered to say a few words.
How did you start playing? Do you have a musical family?
I started playing guitar when I was seven. My parents are not musicians but they love music and my
grandfather played a lot of different instruments. I was mostly into tennis at that time but the
guitar was fun too.
What were your earliest influences?
Aֺ My earliest influences were the great classical composers (Mozart, Chopin etc.) and a few rock/pop artists.
When I was 13, I discovered contemporary jazz and fusion and guitarists like Lee Ritenour, Frank Gambale,
Mike Stern and Scott Henderson.
Have you always had teachers? Where did you study?
Aֺ At first I went to a private teacher and at the age of 16, I started to study at a music high school.
Then I discovered Benson, Lagrene, Pass, Scofield, Metheny and Montgomery etc. and those players influenced
me. In 1998, I attended the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm and stayed there for 4 years. During that time
I had a guitar teacher named Paul Pesonen, (who used to go to Berklee College of Music) and he taught me
a lot of fresh stuff and useful devices for improvisation.
How did you go about learning that Django style? I imagine hours stuck in a small dark room transcribing Django
Aֺ I learned the Django-style the best possible way- by listening to Django's records and having the chance
to play with great gypsy guitarists like Jimmy&Stochelo Rosenberg who are masters of the reststroke and the
gypsy picking technique. You have to see their right hand technique up close to really understand how they
get the volume and the fantastic sound from their acoustic instruments.
Your technique is frightening. The composition "My kind of bebop" is mind blowing. How did you develop
such speed and accuracy?.
Aֺ I've always liked players with a flow, but only those who play melodies instead of patterns and the ones
who sound relaxed even in the fastest tempos. I haven't been locked up at home practicing technique. Playing
fast has always been quite easy for me. I hear long melodic lines in my head and then I just try to get it
out through my hands.
You need a very strong right hand to master that picking technique?
Aֺ Yeah, but it's important to be relaxed too. I've never liked players who hit the strings hard except for
some of the gypsies who does it naturally on acoustic. I like players who plays clean and relaxed at all
speeds like George Benson.
How much do you practice?
1-2 hours every day+gigs. I think that's about it, but I listen to music all the time to constantly learn new
things. I practiced more back when I was at school.
Is there a vibrant jazz scene in Sweden?
Aֺ Yeah, definitely. We have great jazz education and a lot of great young musicians over here. There are a lot of
good saxophone players and some great guitarists like Max Schultz and Ulf Wakenius.
You seem to have developed an individual approach with Marian Petrescu , your piano player.
How did this partnership come together?
Aֺ I met him in @ Pori Jazz Festival in Finland 2004 and loved his playing immediately.
He is a true virtuoso and a unique piano player. I invited him to Sweden to make a recording and then
our collaboration has continued ever since.
Your name appears on jazz festival itineraries all over Europe and the Americas. It seems like the word is getting out.
Do you feel like you are making progress?
Aֺ Yeah, it's great. I get a lot of e-mails and gig requests every day. Internet is a great resource for
spreading your music all over the world, reaching out
to people who would otherwise never have the chance to hear you live or on CD.
Do you think that the Hot Club scene gets the attention it deserves? It often seems like a
poor relation to modern jazz.
Aֺ It's getting more and more popular these days. The sinti gypsies have been living secluded
in southern Europe keeping their secrets and tradition in their familys. These days they are
mixing more with non gypsies and their music is spreading all over the world. Django created
a style that is very European and it's a different tonal language compared to American jazz.
Do you find the acoustic nature of Hot Club a little frustrating? Are you not tempted to plug in and turn up?
Aֺ No, because I play so much straight ahead jazz on electric guitar I like the nature of the Hot Club music. It's different and it's very challenging
but if I would play it full time, I would probably like to have some more variation.
Can you tell us about your new solo album?.
Aֺ I just tried to record some of the ideas and things that I'd been working on at that time.
Solo guitar is very challenging and I tried to record some new things that I found out,
inspired by guitar innovators like Sylvain Luc, Tuck Andress, Bireli Lagrene and Martin
Taylor and last but not least the great Joe Pass.
Do you ever come to the UK?
Aֺ I play in the UK around 4 times every year, but I haven't performed straight jazz
in your country yet䠨as been 100% gypsy jazz so far.
If I could throw a few names at you to get a reaction. Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, Wayne Krantz, Pat Martino. .
Aֺ I love the old Pat Martino stuff like the El Hombre cd and Mike Stern was one of my first fusion
influences with his album Upside Downside. Metheny is one of the guitarists that I've listened a lot
to through the years, his melodic sense makes him one of the best composers too. I've met Wayne Krantz
once but I haven't been listening that much to his stuff.
You have had a custom guitar built for you, could you tell us about that?
Aֺ I have two signature guitars made for me by AJL Guitars in Finland,
One is a gypsy guitar and the other is a L-5 style archtop, both are great instruments with
great sound and feel.
Musically, where do you see yourself headed in the future?
Aֺ I think my next album will be more oriented towards modern jazz, I've been writing a few new tunes
that I'd like to try out. Maybe in an organ trio format.
With the 2006 World Cup approaching, do you think that Sweden stand the remotest chance of making
any impression at all??
Aֺ Maybe, we have a few good players so consider us like a dark horse;)
Whereas Andreas's views on his nations football team can be described as, at the very least, "optimistic", his
guitar playing is without doubt up there with Brazil or West Germany. Mr ֢erg is unquestionably going to be a giant
in the world of jazz guitar. Check out his work if you can. It's going to be a remarkable story.