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29 October 2021
"Gréta develops her folk-toned songs with a clear, sometimes a little coquettish voice, but above all with a feeling for creative concentration"Jazzthing, 01-11-2021
“Nightjar in the Northern Sky”. An iconic image that has been drawn many times in one way or another. Why? Probably because it has such a strong effect on the viewer, describing a place of longing that one is only too happy to oneself into. The album of the same name by pianist and singer Anna Gréta Sigurdardóttir, in short "Anna Gréta", creates such a place, of vast spaces, diffuse Nordic light and comforting intimacy. Her music is shaped by this familiar and at the same time surreal Nordic sound, which her homeland Iceland literally gave her on the way from her birth. Anna Gréta grew up near the Icelandic capital Reykjavík. Her father, who is also appears as guest on the album, is a jazz saxophonist. And so she has been surrounded by music since her earliest childhood. The first formative influence that Anna Gréta remembers is not jazz, but “Let it be” by the Beatles. "This song, its simplicity and power, and the harmony between voice and piano, touch me to this day." At the same time, jazz is a constant companion throughout her youth. Among many others the music of Bill Evans, his feeling for sound, space and atmosphere, opened up a whole musical world to Anna Gréta, when she was around 13 years old. Her talent for the piano came to light early on. And so did her affinity to jazz. At a young age she played her first steady jazz gig in Reykjavik - five evenings a week. And one question that will stay with you for a long time comes up for the first time: When are you finally going to sing? “I really didn't want to comply with this clichée of the jazz singer who accompanied herself on the piano and concentrated fully on playing the piano,” she recalls. And so Anna Gréta eventually moved to Stockholm in 2014, which is still at home today, to study music at the “Royal College Of Music”.
The young, talented pianist quickly caused a stir in Sweden. She began to work with prominent Swedish jazz musicians such as Joakim Milder, Magnus Lindgren, Susanna Risberg or the Norbotten Bigband and receives numerous prizes such as the “Monica Zetterlund Scholarship”, a nomination for “Jazzkatten” from the Swedish Radio and the Icelandic Music Award as “Newcomer of the Year”, the “Jazzclub Fasching Society Award”. She made prominent live appearances such as a live performance at the Nobel Prize in 2020 and a concert with her trio at Stockholm Concert Hall. In 2019 “Brighter”, her first album as a co-leader together with the Swedish guitarist Max Schultz, is being released. When hearing Anna Gréta at the piano, you become witness of an astonishingly mature artist, with absolutely profound technique, a complex understanding of style and harmony and an impressively wide range of musical expression, who has made an extraordinarily good name for herself in just a few years Scandinavian scene. So: Congratulations, keep it up, everything done right! But something, she can feel, is still there - the affinity for songwriting and vocal expression that has always accompanied and occupied her. She recalls: “I always had the greatest respect for many extremely talented female singer-instrumentalists like the wonderful Norah Jones, who is one of my biggest influences. But at the same time I didn’t want to be forced into this stereotype, that a woman in a jazz band always automatically needed to be the singer. So it was important for me to dive deeper into the piano to find my own expression and grow as a musician in a whole, until finally open up to my own voice at a point that i chose freely and not to match up with any kind of expectation.” And so eventually, over the period of two years, partly influenced by the corona-related isolation, the twelve compositions of "Nightjar in the Northern Sky" emerged, on which Anna Gréta now for the first time not only as a pianist, but also can be heard as a singer.
The album title “Nightjar in the Northern Sky” sets the tone for the world of the album: A metaphor for the Scandinavian expanse, tranquility and the close connection between people and nature, a theme that runs through the songs in many pictures. “Nature is just an enormous force in life. It is so much bigger than most of the other things that otherwise seem so significant to us. And it is, in its infinite facets, perhaps the greatest inspiration for my music. A place where the noise falls silent and you can feel and hear yourself again.” says Anna Gréta and adds: „Recently i have been developing a passion for bird-watching – something that i reflect on in the title track. When you observe nature carefully you can experience or see something unique. Sort of like searching for love. The nightjar is a bird that is rarly seen flying across the sky in Sweden and has been observed in Iceland less than five times. I feel that everyone is looking for something unique in their lives. And that nature can offer that to the ones open to see it.“ And so with each of the tracks on the album she creates little, self-contained worlds that fit into a bigger picture. Light-footed, relaxed, reduced, concentrated. An art that required a great deal of work and attention to detail. Together with pop-experienced producer Albert Finnbogason, Anna Gréta chose the perfect, hand-picked line-up and sound for each of her, at a close listen, extraordinarily refined, harmoniously and rhythmically compositions. And, although always in a coherent framework, she took elements from a very diverse range of musical styles, alternating between jazz elements and influences from pop music to excerpts from classical and folk. All these elements create a remarkably multi-layered album, which at the same time tells a coherent, bigger story. And that and allows anyone who is willing to immerse themselves in his world and let get lost in that world for a while.
Gréta develops her folk-toned songs with a clear, sometimes a little coquettish voice, but above all with a feeling for creative concentration