Ebba Åsman – Thinking Forward

One year down, many more to go! In 2020, we’ll continue the BIRDsessions Residency as usual. Next up: Ebba Åsman, who will ring in the new year with her Winter Residency. Her strategy: warming up the cold winter months by emphasizing the importance of ‘New Meetings.’ BIRDsessions programmer Raluca Baicu talked to Ebba to find out how she’s planning to personally orchestrate these musical meetings, and how she feels about the scene.

You’re our new Artist in Residence in January. How does it feel to get the ball rolling as the first BIRDsessions resident of 2020?

“Yeah, wow, thanks again for this unique opportunity! I think it’s an honor to ring in the new year with my friends and fellow musicians in BIRD. BIRD’s my favorite spot in Rotterdam, and the BIRDsessions are my favorite evenings, so I feel like this residency really completes the circle for me.”

How did you find your way to Rotterdam?

“When I was 15 years old, I moved from a small Swedish village to Stockholm to study music. That’s where I met my trombone teacher, Ilja Reijngoud. He advised me to continue my education at Codarts. I’ve now lived in Rotterdam for just over two years, and I’m in my third year at the conservatory.”

Do you like the city? Has Rotterdam replaced Stockholm yet?

“I enjoy this city so much! There’s so much energy and creativity, and it’s starting to feel like home more and more. On some level Stockholm and Rotterdam are very similar in terms of vibe and scene, and the atmosphere is similar as well. That’s probably the reason I feel so at ease here.”

And how about the scene and audience of Rotterdam?

“The scene is much bigger here than in Stockholm, there are more venues to check out, from Dizzy and BIRD to LantarenVenster and North Sea Jazz Festival. I feel like it has grown a lot in recent years, I’ve seen the scene flourish since I’ve been here. I’m discovering more and more places where I meet new people, and I feel like more and more people are coming to the various jam sessions, both audience and musicians.”

Raluca: How has that become clear to you?

“It was different when I first arrived. It could just be me, of course, I’m discovering more and more places where I meet new people. But just look at the different jam sessions, I feel like more and more people are coming to those, both audience and musicians. Do you know what I think is a shame? We female instrumentalists are underrepresented in the scene everywhere, and that’s not just the case in Rotterdam.”

Does that mean you feel like you have more to prove because you’re a woman as well?

“I feel like I should mostly prove myself as a musician, regardless of my gender. But yes, the fact is that I’m a female trombone player in a world dominated by men. I feel that people are sometimes surprised when they see me on stage. I play because I think it’s awesome. If I should be worried about what other people think of the fact that I as a woman play a certain instrument, it would never work. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have liked to see it differently.”

Why did you say yes when I asked you for this initiative?

“I’ve mostly been part of other people’s projects since I’ve been living in Rotterdam. Although that’s naturally fine, I also feel a strong need to lead my own projects, and to share my visions and ideas with a larger audience.”

Your recently released debut record, Zoom Out, is that one of those projects?

“Definitely, and it left me wanting more! I feel as if the early stages of my career are when I should familiarize and present myself as widely as possible. This residency is a great opportunity to do so. For five weeks I’ll be exploring and connecting different styles, new inspirations, musicians and audiences.”

What’s your vision for your Winter Residence?

“With my residency I want to start the new year positively, with a clear message and a fresh look to the future. The title of my concept is ‘Think Forward! The Importance of New Meetings.’ Looking at society, I personally still see a lack of diversity and acceptance. I want to change that by starting the new year with a clean slate and by coming together. I want to embrace diversity by means of ‘New Meetings’ with everyone in BIRD, and to start a musical conversation. We’ll create together.”

Mentioning diversity and using that as a theme for your residency definitely makes you the right Artist in Residence for this winter edition.

“I want to use my Winter Residency as a platform to discover and learn together, so that we can all become closer. For five weeks, I want to create a safe haven where different people, flavors, genders, nationalities, genres and stories meet each other so that they can go down a new road together. Music will be our binding agent to lift these ‘New Meetings’ to a higher level.”

What do you personally hope to get from your residency?

“I’m mostly curious about the new inspirations that I’ll find because of the diversity of cooperations. Hopefully I’ll manage to extricate myself from pigeon-holes people might’ve placed me in, whether consciously or unconsciously. After all, I’m more than just jazz. I’m also planning on blending multiple genres on my next album. This residency is naturally the ideal way to experiment and create. That’s why I’m very curious which ingredients from my residency I can use for my new record after five weeks.”

So your Winter Residency will probably be a blueprint for your new album, sounds nice!

Thursday, January 2: Thinking Forward! #1 Funk meets neo soul

If there’s one album I’ve played over and over ever since I was a child, it’s Funk Unit by Nils Landgren. It’s the peculiar funk of this record combined with the neo vibe of Takuya Kuroda that inspired me and keyboard player Abel Marcel for the first week of my residency.

Thursday, January 9: Thinking Forward! #2 Folk meets soundscapes

For the second week I got together a quartet with whom I’ll be playing compositions from my album Zoom Out. I want to find out what it’s like to play the compositions of that record with local musicians instead of the Swedish musicians I was in the studio with. What will this do to the current sounds of these compositions? You can expect improvised interpretations, modern jazz and melodious soundscapes with Swedish folk influences.

Thursday, January 16: Thinking Forward! #3 Electronic meets ambient

For the third week of my residency I’ll invite my dear friend and flutist Fanni Zahar to jam on electronic sounds, accompanied by beats and melodies. Think of the sound of Kamaal Williams or Alfa Mist. I enjoy listening to their mix of repetition, static sounds and dynamic melodies.

Thursday, January 23: Think Forward! #4 Contemporary meets traditional

Tonight will be all about jazz, from standards and originals to contemporary compositions and melodies. Since I’ll share the stage with some of my favorite musicians this evening, I’m looking forward to try my new compositions a lot.

Thursday, January 30: Think Forward! #5 Soul meets samples

For my fifth and final week I’ll fly in my Swedish friends for a musical get-together. My good friend Vilma Ogenblad has her own neo soul-ish project, for which she sings along with samples. I really want to bring this element into this evening as well. You can expect a blend of electronic sounds, deep basses, my trombone and the soulful voice of Vilma.

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