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Tineke Postma: Living in the Maternal World

Becoming a mother has transformed the saxophonist’s life and music

Tineke Postma
All praise to Freya: Tineke Postma (photo: Merlijn Doomernik)

Things changed profoundly for the Netherlands’ Tineke Postma following the 2014 release of her album Sonic Halo, a collaboration with fellow alto and soprano saxophonist/composer Greg Osby. That year, Postma gave birth to a son; she suddenly found herself moving at a different pace than she was accustomed to, and her priorities shifting. 

Although she didn’t—couldn’t—jump right into her next project, Postma began channeling inspirations from her motherhood experience into new music, ultimately resulting in Freya, her six-years-later followup. “I just needed more time to create a new album, being a new mom,” she says. “I wanted to not rush, to come up with something I could really stand behind once it felt right to record again as a bandleader.”

Freya, which she began piecing together in 2018, features 10 original compositions that reflect the new outlook Postma’s adopted since her baby was born. “Raising a kid, being in the presence of a very young human being, you realize that they are teaching you; they are always in the moment and very mindful about everything you do, because that’s what kids do,” she says. “They see the magic in everything.”

Postma wasn’t idle during the period between albums. She spent time taking in—and participating in—music by others. Jack DeJohnette’s Made in Chicago group with Roscoe Mitchell and Muhal Richard Abrams provided inspiration, as did collaborators and colleagues such as Terri Lyne Carrington and, especially, Wayne Shorter, whose fearlessly open approach to music and life, Postma found, touched on some of the same values she was finding in parenthood.

“Wayne’s way of looking at things is very much fueled by imagination,” Postma says. “So I tried to use my imagination more when composing songs. I was also looking for the story behind my music. It inspires me to be in the moment and react to the musicians around me, to listen deeply to what’s going on and to work with that, instead of the stuff I’ve been practicing or working on. I just want to be a sincere, honest musician. Every note needs to be honest. I can play a lot of notes, but there has to be meaning behind it.”

Apropos of her present lifestyle and concerns, Postma titled the new album after a “mythological woman who is the goddess of creation, love, and fertility,” she says. Inspired by her mother and grandmother as well as her own parental role, Postma wanted to “make a very personal record, to look at my lineage, my heritage. But I also wanted the album title to honor strong women who have influenced me or inspired me.”

Those women include drummer/composer Carrington, on whose 2011 album The Mosaic Project Postma played, and the late pianist/composer Geri Allen, who contributed to Postma’s 2009 release The Traveller. In order to realize her vision for the new songs, Postma recruited another formidable woman, pianist Kris Davis, along with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, acoustic and electric bassist Matt Brewer, and drummer Dan Weiss.

“The combination is always very crucial,” Postma says. “You can have amazing musicians, but maybe they don’t work together. I knew Kris Davis from when I lived in New York; we did a session and played together with Terri Lyne Carrington’s band. I love Ralph’s energy and creativity. Dan Weiss recorded on my previous album, and we did some touring; he’s just one of the most amazing drummers, very creative, able to play everything. And then there’s Matt Brewer. I never played with him before the recording, but of course I knew him from numerous recordings. I also felt that he really connected with the rest of the musicians.”

Postma was particularly interested in putting together a team that could easily handle the variety of melodic and rhythmic elements she had written into the Freya music. “They play everything,” she says about her collaborators, “and I wanted musicians who could bring that to the music. But I also wanted musicians who make me sound better, who can inspire me to move away from playing on the safe side. I love to explore new things and I feel that they really do that. There are a lot of different elements of music here, different vibes and colors that nicely represent the direction I wanted to go into.”

With touring up in the air due to the coronavirus crisis, Postma was uncertain at the time of this writing when she would be able to support Freya on the road. But she’s focused on the future regardless: “I want to keep on developing my compositional skills and try to broaden my horizons and learn as much as I can, to develop as a musician and make people happy with my music,” she says, “and to try to add something. I’m happier when I play music.”

Jeff Tamarkin

Jeff Tamarkin on social media

Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.