36th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 12-16 October, 2022

Alexander Hawkins - Sofia Jernberg


Alexander Hawkins - p
Sofia Jernberg - voc

The duo made its debut in 2016 under the name Musho, which in an Amharic (Ethiopian official language) means Sad Song. The project was inspired by Ethiopian music for which both musicians share affinity.

They have both honed their languages in the company of musical elder statesmen from that country: the pianist with Ethiopian percussionist Mulatu Astatke and the singer with Ethiopian accordionist Hailu Mergia.

British jazz pianist, organist, composer and bandleader Alexander Hawkins has appeared in Vilnius Jazz in 2015, where together with Italian saxophonist Roberto Ottaviano he introduced a project to mark the 10th death anniversary of American saxophonist Steve Lacy.

Hawkins works in a vast array of creative contexts. His own highly distinctive sound world is forged through the search to reconcile both his love for free improvisation and his fascination with composition. He keeps mesmerising the jazz community with his staggering technical ability and a fecund imagination.

Interestingly enough, the musician has graduated from Cambridge where he studied law and criminology. He decided not to study jazz academically, for he wanted to be free to play what he wanted and the way he wanted. No wonder, he is dubbed as one of the most vividly distinctive voices in modern jazz. Hawkins has been influenced by a large number of free jazz pioneers, however his main idol is American pianist Art Tatum.

Hawkins embarked on his musical career as an organ player. Indeed, that helped him to become the most interesting Hammond player. He has formed an organ trio Decoy with bassist John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble. A number of the trio’s projects and recordings feature the celebrated free jazz saxophonist Joe McPhee.

In 2006, the pianist set up Convergence Quartet with Dominic Lash and Harris Eisenstadt, recorded several CDs that earned critical recognition.

Hawkins continues to be heard live and on record with a number of contemporary leaders of all generations including the likes of Evan Parker, John Surman, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Marshall Allen, Han Bennink, Hamid Drake, Rob Mazurek, Taylor Ho Bynum, Harris Eisenstadt, Shabaka Hutchings, Joe McPhee and Mulatu Astatke. He has also been noted for his performances in the bands of legendary South American drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo.

In addition, the keyboardist performs and records as a soloist, composes and arranges for acclaimed formations. In 2012, he was selected as one of the young composers to be part of the London Symphony Orchestra’s experimental programme; also was commissioned to write almost an hour-long composition for BBC Radio; and did a collection of arrangements for London’s Dedication Orchestra.

As a composer and arranger Hawkins has been commissioned by the London Jazz Festival and the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. He was voted the “Instrumentalist of the Year” in the 2016 Parliamentary jazz Awards.

Concert appearances have taken him to festival stages and major clubs worldwide.

Singer and composer Sofia Jernberg was born in Ethiopia, grew up in Ethiopia, Sweden and Vietnam, and currently migrates between Oslo, Norway and Stockholm, Sweden.

While still a student she received the Royal Swedish Academy of Music’s jazz award as an innovative and uncompromising artist, a fearless musician who with great curiosity and big appetite for every kind of music breaks new ground in jazz and art music.

According to the musician herself, singing and composing are deeply connected venues of self-expression; and the opportunity to create ‘new’ music is her main source of inspiration.

Jernberg is active in a wide range of music – from contemporary academic to radical free jazz. She has performed Arnold Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and took part in Salvatore Sciarrino’s chamber opera, collaborated with Mats Gustafsson’s Fire! Orchestra.

One of her deepest interests is to develop the ‘instrumental’ possibilities of the voice. She has been experimenting in this direction in several formations. Together with pianist Cecilia Persson she formed modern jazz octet Paavo. The group received the “The Jazz group of the Year” award from the Swedish Radio. She also co-leads contemporary quartet The New Songs, performs as a duo with cellist Lene Grenager. Her radical interests do not put a limit on her collaboration with the most diverse projects.

Jernberg has composed for several established ensembles such as Duo ego and Norrbotten NEO. Her voice can be heard in albums of Paavo and Fire! Orchestra. With the latter she appeared in Vilnius Jazz in 2017.

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