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Swedish Artist PONTUS DE WOLFE Discusses “Stockholm Corona Sessions” and Coping with Covid-19 Pandemic with Madness To Creation

Swedish Artist PONTUS DE WOLFE Discusses “Stockholm Corona Sessions” and Coping with Covid-19 Pandemic with Madness To Creation

Editor’s Note:  The Covid-19 project Jazzagenturen:  Stockholm Corona Sessions recording project that took place on 2 april in Stockholm, Sweden as a direct reaction to the Corona crisis and the disastrous situation it has put a lot of musicians in. I invited 16 of the best jazz musicians in Sweden to record 50 songs over a 12 hour session at Rixmixningsverket, a studio in one of the center islands in Stockholm, and run by the legendary ABBA member Benny Andersson. The list of songs include both new and unique arrangements of old classics, as well as new compositions from members of the collective.

“Jazzagenturen” is a Stockholm based network of jazz musicians and bands, with a focus on delivering traditional live jazz of the very best quality to the city’s concert halls, clubs as well as private events and parties.
During the Covid -19 crisis, it’s founder and manager, Pontus de Wolfe gathered 20 of Jazzagenturen’s most frequent players in three ensembles and recorded them during a 12 hour non stop session on 2 april 2020, resulting in 50 sprawling songs in total, consisting of both new arrangements of old classics as well as brand new songs from members of the network. These recordings will be released in 5 volumes with spread over 2020, under the name “The Stockholm Corona Sessions”. A seperate “Best of” vinyl set will be released by the end of the year.
These recordings were made in order to compensate these amazing musicians during a time when nearly all of their work was taken away from them. In the collective spirit of Jazzagenturen, all royalties and contributions will be split equally between all of its participants, as a symbol of our dependence of each other and the importance of holding each others backs during difficult times, as well as when creating great music. 
These recordings certainly won’t be our last, we hope you will enjoy the results!
Fredrik Hermansson, Moussa Fadera, Fredrik Lindborg, Carl Bagge, Martin Hoper, Leo Lindberg, Kenji Rabson, Nils Janson, Björn Jansson, Konrad Agnas, Jonas Bäckman, Erik Palmberg with Isabella Lundgren, Matilda Gratte, Lina Nyberg & Niklas Lind
Production/mixing/mastering/artwork by Pontus de Wolfe
Track list, ‘Stockholm Corona Sessions vol. 1’:
1. I got it bad (and that ain’t good) (Duke Ellington)
2. Holy Land (Cedar Walton)
3. Dyningar (Lars Gullin)
4. Långfredag (Fredrik Hermansson)
5. What is this thing called Love (Cole Porter)
6. Chelsea Bridge (Billy Strayhorn)
7. Over the Rainbow (Yip Harburg, Harold Arlen) – feat. Isabella Lundgren 
8. Ojos de Rojo (Cedar Walton)
9. Moon River (Henry Mancini) – feat. Matilda Gratte
List of musicians:
1. I got it bad (and that ain’t good): Fredrik Hermansson (piano), Niklas Fernqvist (double bass), Konrad Agnas (drums), Fredrik Lindborg (sax), Björn Jansson (sax), Nils Janson (trumpet)
2. Holy Land: Leo Lindberg (piano), Kenji Rabson (double bass), Moussa Fadera (drums)
3. Dyningar: Carl Bagge (piano), Martin Höper (double bass), Jonas Bäckman (drums), Erik Palmberg (trumpet)
4. Långfredag: Fredrik Hermansson (piano), Niklas Fernqvist (double bass), Konrad Agnas (drums), Fredrik Lindborg (sax), Björn Jansson (sax), Nils Janson (trumpet)
5. What is this thing called Love: Carl Bagge (piano), Palle Sollinger (double bass), Jonas Bäckman (drums), Nils Janson (trumpet)
6. Chelsea Bridge:  Leo Lindberg (piano), Kenji Rabson (double bass), Moussa Fadera (drums)
7. Over the Rainbow: Isabella Lundgren (vocals), Carl Bagge (piano), Martin Höper (double bass), Jonas Bäckman (drums)
8. Ojos de Rojo: Leo Lindberg (piano), Kenji Rabson (double bass), Moussa Fadera (drums)
9. Moon River: Matilda Gratte (vocals), Carl Bagge (piano), Palle Sollinger (double bass), Jonas Bäckman (drums), Nils Janson (trumpet)
In this interview with Madness To Creation, Jazzagenturen founder Pontus De Wolfe discusses the project and Sweden coping with the Covid-19 pandemic.  Fans can find Jazzagenturen and Pontus De Wolfe at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: How have you coped with the Covid-19 pandemic?
Pontus:  Since 100% of our business as a collective has been in the live environment, it has been disastrous for me and the musicians from a strictly economical perspective. However, they were quick to respond to my initiative to try to move in to the recording space instead – I think it was a Miles Davis documentary and his extreme productivity that gave me the idea. That’s how the whole project came about, and I sincerely think that is something we wouldn’t have committed to otherwise, and that will be worthwhile in the long run. I’ve always pushed projects I’ve been involved with to be as ambitious and visionary as possible.
Madness To Creation: What are a few adjustments that you have had to make in regards to your personal life with Covid-19?
Pontus:  As I’m sure you’re aware of, the social restrictions have been quite different here in Sweden compared to other countries. I’m saddened by the distance it has forced me and certain members of my family, but our country’s more open attitudes have taught us to be more careful, so I believe we will reach some form of normality soon.
Madness To Creation: As a jazz musician, what’s some of your favorite notes to play and what style of jazz is your favorite play?
Pontus:  Since my technical skills are mediocre compared to my fellow musicians in the Jazzagenturen community, my focus is mainly as a producer and composer. But I find the question intriguing, since I’ve always found that certain movements and chord positions on the piano feel good to play for the hands, in an almost sensual way. I’m sure that the physical sensations have driven compositions in certain directions unconsciously throughout history. You can’t go wrong with a B7 / D for instance:)
Madness To Creation: What are three of the biggest reasons that you got into music?
Pontus:  My father was an artist who improvised for hours a day on our Blüthner grand piano, and my half brother was a recording artist while I was growing up, so it seemed like the natural thing to do. My grandmother got me into piano lessons, while my mother fed me with The Beatles and various grand masters of jazz.
Madness To Creation: What were some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects that were made in the creating and recording process?
Pontus:  I would say I was quite prepared for the practical ordeals of keeping track of 20 musicians recording 50 tracks over a 12 hour period, especially from my work with longer musical live events and scheduling from numerous recording projects. I have full trust in all the musicians involved, so I could focus on getting them into the right room at the right time etc. in order to get everything tracked. The most challenging thing has been finding a voice in the mixing and finding the right dynamics for each volume for sure. But the positive thing about the pandemic – if you can call it that – is that it has given me room to focus on the work to complete the projects, since the rest of my schedule was wiped clean!
Madness To Creation: I’m curious as an American, what is your view of the protests and uprising in America?  How does Sweden view it?

Pontus: It’s quite surreal that these two world changing events are taking place at the same time, but I can see how they connect. Certainly mass unemployment and normal society being set on pause have given people all the more reason (and time) to take to the streets. In general, us Swedes are supportive with the BLM protesters (I have myself been involved with several fundraisers for it), while indeed struggling with our own discriminating system as it’s put into the light. I’m also curious about to what extent people in the US connect the protests with their president, as we see it almost as a protest aimed towards Trump. All I can say about that is maybe it was time, and in a strange way, I think it hadn’t been possible with Obama in office, but also not possible had he not been there quite recently. Ironically, perhaps Trump’s arrogance has allowed for the kettle to boil over so to speak.

   I think fighting racism ultimately starts with empathy, and separating people based on color or background stifles that. I have great respect for the people of America who wants this trauma to be over with, and overcome these injustices on which the system you’ve inherited is partly built upon. I see it as our duty to help in any way we can, since we as a country ultimately are greatly influenced by yours and are very much connected by history. 
Madness To Creation: Given Covid-19, what is your continuous plan in terms of promoting the recordings?
Pontus:  At the most part, through digital medias and international press – since I think the story behind the project is inspiring and interesting enough to be picked up anywhere. The musicians that are playing on the record are all involved in streamed events, as performing artists in their own right, so I don’t want to interfere with that too much. Ultimately, this is a way to aid my fellow musicians through these hard times, and make sure that we have something to be proud of and remind people of until we’re able to work in front of people again. I think it will have helped our act to grow in people’s consciousness and has been the best thing to do considering the circumstances. 
Madness To Creation: Where can people find your music?

Pontus: On all the digital platforms to begin with. Make sure to follow us on Spotify, and the music will find you. My personal favorite is Tidal, because of the sound quality. If you feel you can’t afford their services at the moment, ask me politely and I’ll provide you with the album as a mp3 or WAV. People can always help with spreading our music on social medias if they want to help out. 

   Vol 1 is out now, and will be followed by 2 – 5 album length volumes for the rest of 2020. a ”Best of” double LP will be released by the end of the year.
And there you have it!  Check out Pontus De Wolfe on Spotify as well!
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