Alto saxophonist, composer, bandleader, educator. Amanda Sedgwick shifts between her different roles, always with the ambition to take one step further. Today her focus is on her quintet, featured on her latest album ”Shadow And Act”.
Amanda Sedgwick was born in Stockholm in 1970 and grew up in numerous suburbs outside the city. At eight she begun to take piano lessons for her aunt, a pianist and piano teacher. When the time came to start junior high she applied for Adolf Fredrik, a school highly focused on choir singing.
– It was really very good to sing in choir! she says. Everything was very ordered and prudent and you quickly had to learn about self-discipline. This has been of great value to me later on. Plus you got vocal training and some basic insight in musical theory.
At one point during these years Amanda picked up the violin which was a ”complete disaster”. But her father insisted on her learning how to play two instruments. She was allowed to quit the violin if she took up something else. What did she want to start with?
– It was by chance that I started playing the saxophone. My best friend thought it looked cool when that guy in that English pop band Madness played it.
So at thirteen she walked through the door for her first lesson for teacher Alf Lund.
– He had me started with standard tunes at once. He used to comp me on the piano and I messed my way through the melody. It was fantastic! I got hooked, emotionally and mentally.
The alto sax was meant for me!
At that time Amanda mostly listened to music from the sixties, like The Who, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors.
– But my grandfather liked jazz and he had a friend who gave me a whole bunch of LP’s with Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Hank Jones … that was my introduction to jazz.
During her years in school Amanda played in several student big bands, her shcool big band and one under the tutelage of Swedish pianist Nils Lindberg.
In the big band at school we played those Basie-tunes from the fifties. In Nils Lindberg’s band we played his arrangements of bebop tunes. You had to learn how to phrase and to improvise a little bit and all that. A good foundation!
Next step was three years in an Art’s high school in Stockholm. For saxophone teacher Gunnar Andersson she studied a little bit more technique. Her days were filled with jazz ensemble, lessons in piano, choir, music theory and music history.
After high school two years in southern Sweden awaited. The typical and popular Swedish education form ”folkhögskola”.
– That was of course very different from high school. You didn’t have much else to do than practice and broaden your repertoire. Every week there were four different ensembles, each one focused on a certain musical style. You also had piano, music theory, and you practiced and practiced.
From 1991 to 1995 Amanda studied at the Royal University College of Music in Stockholm. Besides saxophone she studied arranging and composition, counterpoint, instrumentation, music theory and clarinet.
– That’s when I really started to work with a goal in mind and learned to write and arrange music. I put together a band with trumpeter Magnus Broo, basist Filip Augustsson and drummer Jesper Kviberg. We played a lot in a small café in town, not just my tunes but also the music of Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus.
These years she played a couple of times with Bernt Rosengren’s big band and had the opportunity to play with legendary trumpet player Rolf Ericson before he died. Nils Sandström had a band that played the repertoire from ”Birth of the cool”, and in Kalabra she played folk-rock.
For her final exam at the College she wrote the suite ”Volt” for her own group, string quartet and woodwinds. That became the major piece on her debut CD ”Volt” which was the ”Jazz in Sweden” record 1996 (then an annual award to up-and coming musicians).
– I attended a class in instrumentation and was very inspired by Debussy and Schönberg. It’s modern jazz influenced by European music of the twentieth century.