Music in the making: how Tineke Postma prepares for Budapest

Jazz saxophonist Tineke Postma, chosen to be European Jazz Musician of the Year 2021 by the Académie du Jazz, is always up to something exciting. Recently she was commissioned to build bridges between two European cities, as well as people of different backgrounds, with the help of music. What will come out of such a challenging task? We can experience it on 21 September on the stage of Müpa, but until then, I asked Tineke Postma some questions.

You will play with two other musicians: Tristan Renfrow and Márton Fenyvesi. What is the story of this collaboration?

The Bridging Europe Festival invited me to put together a line-up of Amsterdam-based and Budapest-based musicians. I decided to bring my drummer from the Tineke Postma Group, Tristan Renfrow, an American who lives in the Netherlands. It was him who suggested Márton, having known him from his studies in Amsterdam. He is one of the best guitar players in Hungary. So the three of us decided to form a line-up, which is very exciting! Both Tristan and Márton are great masters of their respective instruments, they are adventurous and creative musicians.

Is this the first time for the three of you to play together?

Yes, this is a very new configuration. I really like to work in unconventional line-ups: in this case, for instance, there is no bass player, which already requires some out-of-the-box thinking. All three of us will compose some new music, and the line-up already affects the way we do it. I personally like to work with what is given, so in this case I don’t want to write music that pretends as if there was a bass player. I know Márton will bring his usual creativity, too: effects, loops, and so on. I don’t like to be stuck in the traditional roles of a musician or composer; what I prefer is to be in the moment, to improvise, and to react to what the others are doing.

How is the workflow going on nowadays?

The show will partly consist of our pre-written compositions and partly of improvisation. Soon we will bring our music together and we will have one and a half days to rehearse and see what works. There will be a lot of surprising elements to me, and I love that. I am always open to different ways to look at music, and I find different perspectives truly enriching. To have some surprises, to react in the moment, is a basic need in my music-making that always brings me a lot of happiness.

Can you tell us a bit more about your own compositions?

Some of the music to present on 21 September is not yet even written. Yes, I’m going to write more music in the coming weeks! My contribution is a combination of many elements: powerful, rhythmic, lyrical melodies, which are results of a work with the space, and which have a certain density, intensity. On my last album, Freya, this is what I did: it was a mixture of lots of different styles. This time, too, there will be so many different influences from classical music to contemporary jazz, not to mention the electric influences added by Márton. In the end, I will write specifically for this line-up, and the nature of my music is not easy to explain. It is not so much like ‘regular’ jazz tunes, but a composed, contemporary approach which leaves space for improvisation and interaction.

You mentioned the influence of space on your music. Is this your first time in the Müpa?

It is, and I’m very excited about it. The whole first rehearsal will be a surprise. That’s how you can make a jazz musician happy: bring them to work with new situations, among unknown challenges, and see how they get inspired by that. It will be great to see Márton in person for the first time in my life. Usually, I compose with the musicians in my mind, and this time not only them but the whole location has been influencing the work. This whole setting reminds me of a beautiful encounter with Wayne Shorter some years ago. He told me that everything he writes is an expression of his own experience, and these days I also feel a similar effect of personal inputs on my writing.

When you started your career, did you expect so many awards? You were selected not only European Jazz Musician of the Year in 2021, but the best breakthrough artist for saxophone in 2019, and your album Freya also received a huge critical acclaim.

No, I absolutely didn’t expect them. When you are a musician, you take everything seriously and constantly work hard, to be as good as you can, and even better and better. You want to grow as a musician, to develop yourself, to form collaborations with people and play together. That’s what I signed up for when I opted for this career. Nevertheless, recognition is wonderful, and even though I wouldn’t have expected these awards and positive reviews, I’m incredibly thankful for them. And the work goes on! I’m looking forward to all the inspiration, joint work and adventures that wait for me in Budapest.