Norwegian Saxophonist Frøy Aagre’s 2010 album, Cycle of Silence was released on prestigious German label ACT to critical acclaim. She has built an impressive reputation for herself through creating an instantly recognisable distinctive style – a mean feat for any musician to achieve. Now, she is working toward a new album to be released late 2012/early 2013. Ahead of her London gig at Boisdale, Canary Wharf tonight, where she will showcase some of the new material from the album, Frøy takes time to chat to the girls are about the differences between Norwegian and British jazz education, audience feedback and women making it happen for themselves…
the girls are: Hey – thanks for taking the time to chat to us. So, you studied in Norway and England right? Were there any major differences in the way jazz was taught in the two places?
Frøy Aagre: I did study in Birmingham Conservatoire and the Norwegian Academy of Music. Those are not 100% representative of all places across the two countries of course, but it was really interesting to study in both places. The reason why I chose Birmingham in the first place when I was 19 was because of the different studies available there for world music, classical and jazz. At that time I was very open minded and I wanted to check out different things rather than having to dedicate myself to one genre. Whereas, in Norway they didn’t have all those music styles represented in one place. Also Birmingham was more geared toward the American standard jazz history, whereas, in the study I did in Norway, I got encouraged to really just do my own thing.
tga: So it was good to do both?
FA: Yeah, definitely. Even in Birmingham I was still doing my own thing and leading my own bands but also I was learning more traditional things. In Oslo I kind of continued doing that but just with more focus on doing my own thing. It was a good combination for me to do both.
tga: Did you notice any differences in the numbers of women studying jazz between the two countries?
FA: I met more women in music in England than I did in the beginning in Norway. Although, now it is kind of catching up a bit in Norway so I can see there is a development…though, its very slow. Obviously it’s a profession which is hard. I mean, it is a test for anyone whether you’re a woman or a man. I think its good to support each other. Very often and including myself female musicians tend to have men in their bands and that is also to do with the fact that there are so few women. So the people we hang out with tend to be guys in the first place and often you choose people you know to play in your bands. Maybe we should try better to collaborate with female musicians as well.
tga: Yes, that said though, I’m feeling there is a change coming, I’m noticing a lot more women on the jazz scene – and its encouraging…exciting…
FA: Yeah, me too. There is really something happening you know. The more women that are out there playing, the more they will encourage younger players and you know, show that it is possible to continue doing this and make a profession out of it. So I think its really a positive development.
tga: You’re very highly thought of within the jazz scene, young girls are bound to be looking to you as a role model now…
FA: Yeah I hope so – I really like the possibility of being inspiring for younger girls. It’s really a great thing to think about. Everyone who is out there should be visible and just do their own thing, that way we can all encourage each other.
tga: What other sax players or musicians do you rate right now?
FA: Ingrid Laubrok is amazing. There are many younger musicians in Norway too, that are coming up. It’s really a vibrant scene there today with a lot of female musicians also. You know, it’s also interesting to see that a lot of the time female musicians end up as leaders. Most of the time it’s the guys who are playing and the girls who are doing other things. So we have become very aware of what we want to do musically and found people we want to play with and then ended up leading and writing for those people. So we haven’t just been like a fifth wheel playing in the bands you know, with the guys.
tga: So almost like women have sometimes had to work on their own and that’s led them to have really direct vision?
FA: Yeah, I mean I can only speak for myself, but I didn’t play in a lot of bands with my girl friends and you can never be one of the boys. But how I’ve grown up has led me to have a really individual idea and vision of what I want to do with my music at quiet an early stage I guess.
tga: So tell us about tonight’s gig at Canary Wharf?
FA: Well, it’s a very exciting new project – a duo with my piano player Andreas Ulvo. We have been playing together in quartets for 9 years but now we’ve started this duo. We are playing my music that is still very recognisably my style. It’s a slightly different approach though, and its very exciting and kind of gives us some more freedom just being the two of us. We are recording a CD just after the gig. So if people want to influence the album they can come tonight and give us feedback and then we might consider that in recording.
tga: Audience feedback is important to you then?
FA: Yeah absolutely. In concerts it is an interaction between the audience and performers. I really respond to the audience, when you have that magical moment together then the concert turns out great, but you need both to make that happen. The more feedback we get, the more we give, it’s give and take. I love playing concerts and then meeting the audience. Its something I love about this profession – that you meet so many wonderful people that also love music.
tga: That’s a really great attitude.
FA: The reason I do a gig is because I really love music and generally love playing music and it has always been a central part to my life. Its something I love but it has more value when I can share it with people.
tga: So what else have you got planned for 2012?
FA: This summer is a lot of work with the album, recording and mixing etc and then a lot of gigs in the Autumn to promote the album. We’re playing in Huddersfield in November.
tga: Great, we can’t wait to hear the album when it’s finished.
FA: I just wanted to say also I think its really good work what you’re doing on the girls are. I like how you focus on the positive thing. You always get further being positive rather than focusing on the negative so this place where you are showing all the wonderful things musicians are doing is great.
tga: Aw shucks, thanks Frøy. We happen to think what you do is pretty great too.
Frøy is playing tonight at Boisdale, Canary Wharf, London 9pm.