The multi-award-winning Hamburg-based Tingvall Trio, made up of Swedish pianist Martin Tingvall, Cuban bassist Omar Rodriguez Calvo and German drummer Jürgen Spiegel, will take to the stage at Ronnie Scott’s on 16 August, celebrating 20 years as a trio and the release of their new album Birds. Birds – composed by Tingvall and developed and arranged together with the trio in the space of three days – has already taken Europe by storm in the weeks since its release, entering the overall German album charts at #21: a confirmation of the enduring popularity and unmistakable charm of one of Germany’s most prominent jazz exports. Interview with pianist Martin Tingvall by Izzy Blankfield:
LondonJazz News: You’re performing at Ronnie Scott’s on 16 August. What are you most looking forward to?
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Martin Tingvall: The last time we played at Ronnie Scott’s [in September 2017], it was so special. The audience there encompasses everything we want to be as a band: full of energy and joy. There’s a special communication that develops between the three of us and the audience. It’s a huge club, and people come from all over the world to listen to music there, but it always feels very intimate.
LJN: Twenty years together as a trio with the same line-up is an impressive feat. What’s your secret?
MT: It doesn’t feel like twenty years at all. It’s like we starting playing together yesterday! Put simply, it’s just so much fun. Every year, we get to know each other better and have more fun with one another. We’re as much a group of friends as a trio: the more music we play together, the more we trust each other to try out new things. We’re always becoming braver. We have a special chemistry together as a three, and we’ve been working on this chemistry for a long time. It’s a real privilege to play together with good friends and fantastic musicians.
LJN: How has your musical style developed over the last two decades?
MT: Of course we’ve changed and developed as musicians. Our very first album [Skagerrak, released in 2006] had a very different musical direction. It was more clearly shaped by Scandinavian jazz. Now we’re branching out more, and moving towards world music, classical, pop, and film music.
LJN: You’re based in Hamburg, but all three of you are from different countries, with different mother tongues. Tell me about your way of communicating with one another.
MT: The best thing about music is that it is universal – it’s the most important language. We play with our ears, with our bodies, we react to each other rhythmically and musically.
LJN: What have been the highlights of the last 20 years?
MT: Too many to count! We performed the song ‘Vägen’ (Roads) at a sold-out show in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2011 – a song that is all about our journey together as a band. We played the melody through once, then the audience joined in in four-part harmony, completely on the spot. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
LJN: Any surprises planned for the gig next month at Ronnie Scott’s?
MT: Maybe it’s a cliché, but we’re always trying to surprise our audience. And we’re going to surprise ourselves a bit too – we’ll see where the music takes us on the night. Every concert gives us ideas for the next. Everywhere we play has its own special atmosphere.
LJN: You’ll be sharing music from your album, Birds, which was released with SKIP records earlier this month. What’s the story behind the new album?
MT: I took inspiration from nature’s singers for this album. I listened to a lot of birdsong in Sweden in the peace and quiet of the pandemic. I tried to imitate the birds and develop melodies from their song. The more I listened, the more I understood that they represent so much more: the changing climate, the war edging closer in Europe. We recorded the whole album in Italy over two days, then dedicated a third day to experimenting with new sounds and ideas. We’ll be performing tracks from the album, including a solo composition ‘A Call for Peace’, and ‘SOS’, which is an emergency call for the world. We can’t look away from the problems the world is facing – and the birds reflect this in their songs and migration patterns.
LJN: What are your plans for the coming months?
MT: We’re off on tour in the autumn, starting in Switzerland and Germany and moving across Europe. We’re excited to let the birds fly!
LJN: And for the next 20 years?
MT: We’re on a musical journey, and we’re right in the middle of it. Or maybe we’re just getting started?
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LINKS: Ronnie Scott’s bookings