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Letter From Stockholm

Editor Evan Haga on the Swedish capital's annual jazz festival

Fatoumata Diawara and the Stockholm Art Orchestra at Kulturhuset; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Fatoumata Diawara and the Stockholm Art Orchestra at Kulturhuset; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Fatoumata Diawara at Kulturhuset; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Sons of Kemet at the club Fasching; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Sons of Kemet’s Shabaka Hutchings at the club Fasching; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Mathias Landæus at the club Fasching; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Roscoe Mitchell and Kikanju Baku (from left) at Kulturhuset; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
The Jari Haapalainen Trio plays at the club Fasching; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Daniel Bingert of the Jari Haapalainen Trio at the club Fasching; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Jari Haapalainen at the club Fasching; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Naoko Sakata at the club Fasching; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Bobo Stenson at the club Fasching; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Martin Sjöstedt, Daniel Fredriksson and Fredrik Lindborg (LSD) at Scalateatern; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
Roscoe Mitchell and Kikanju Baku (from left) at Kulturhuset; Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016

On Oct. 8, closing a triple bill early into the weeklong 2016 Stockholm Jazz Festival, the pianist Bobo Stenson allowed me to understand jazz’s best-known solo piano performer, Keith Jarrett, with a fresh and meaningful perspective. Stenson, perhaps Sweden’s most important jazz export at age 72, flowed through one sterling melody after another, tinged with deeply felt undertones of gospel and R&B and the bittersweet, romantic soul that descends from Bill Evans. It was concert-hall-caliber music played in a nightclub-a terrific and acoustically capable one, called Fasching-and it somehow took Jarrett’s playing out of relief and immersed it into a generation of brilliantly affecting melodists that includes Stenson, Steve Kuhn and others. The set was a reminder to not be satisfied with institutional knowledge and collective wisdom, to look beyond the data you’ve been given.

In fact, the Stockholm festival as a whole delivered this message. The few days I spent there earlier this month were full of discovery, dense with the beginnings of new rabbit holes. And full of self-examination, with questions like: Why don’t I already know about these musicians? What other players and scenes exist in my blind spots? Am I receiving-and, in my position, disseminating-the most worthwhile information? After covering and following a jazz-festival circuit that seems more and more homogenous to me with each passing year, unfamiliar felt very good.

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