Since their first performance three years ago, Elysian Fields, Australia’s only electric viola da gamba band, has carved out a growing reputation for performances that blur the boundaries between jazz, chamber music and world music. On May 24 2018 Elysian Fields will launch their Scandinavian Project which features Scandinavian jazz and folk songs alongside new music inspired by the Nordic World.  Saxophonist, composer and band co-founder, Matt Keegan, talks about his relationship with Sweden and the charts he has composed for The Scandinavian Project

Why did you decide to spend time studying in Sweden?

I followed my then fiancé to Sweden as she went to study with the great trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger. I enjoyed living in Sweden so much that I decided to stay and do a year’s study at the Malmö Musikhögskolan (Malmö Music Academy).  Malmö is in the south of Sweden.

Where were you based and what did you?

Matt Keegan

We lived briefly at the school in Malmö and then moved together into Malmö township. I spent most of my time practicing through the winter months. Arriving in the dark in the morning and leaving in the dark in the evening! I would hang out with local musicians and spent lots of time listening to music in the local jazz club.  I also travelled regularly to Copenhagen which is just across the water where there is a fantastic jazz scene. Very different feeling to the Swedish music. I went to jam sessions and would busk (in the summer).  I eventually started getting a few gigs here and there as I made friends.

Do you think there is anything unique of special that defines Scandinavian jazz?

Yes – there is an openness and even a loneliness to the Scandinavian/Swedish sound. There was a lot more emphasis on textures, feelings and melodies than the more rhythm section driven, American feeling that was really present in Copenhagen.   Although I suppose technically, Denmark is part of Scandinavia!

You’ve written two charts for The Scandinavian Project reflecting your time in Sweden.  Can you tell us a bit about the music and your thinking behind each piece?

The first piece, “Fjord line” is named after a shipping company that ferries people between Sweden and Norway. One winter during my stay I spent a fantastic week with some friends from the music school at their family cabin in the foothills of the Norwegian mountains. The initial idea for the groove and harmony came from a composition called Norway released on my first album “Moving Sea Between”. I wanted to re-explore some of my thoughts and feelings from this time from a more mature perspective. The second chart, “Cold Soul” is about the majesty and spiritual quality of some of the Scandinavian landscapes. There is something magical and beautiful about the scenery in the wintertime.

You’ve been composing for Elysian Fields for several years now. How is the band evolving and changing?

Matt in the studio

I believe that working towards and recording our first album has really helped galvanise the essence of the ensemble. We have begun to hit our straps musically by gradually developing a clearer understanding of the overall nature of the group and how we all relate to each other sonically in live settings. It takes time for a band to settle and mature especially when creating something that sits outside generic boundaries. Making the album has given us a lot of confidence and clarity in what we are trying to achieve together.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?

I have recently released my new album called “Vienna Dreaming”. This work is dedicated to my Great Grandfather who was a musician and refugee from Austria. This year I am also premiering my new duo project for saxophone with fx, sampler and drums. And finally, I am currently putting together a tour for my cross-cultural Indian/Australian band, “The Three Seas.” We will be performing in Australia and India at the end of 2018.

Elysian Fields is:

Susie Bishop -voice and violin

Matt Keegan – saxophones

Jenny Eriksson – electric viola da gamba

Matt McMahon – piano

Siebe Pogson – bass guitar

Dave Goodman – drums