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Ida Sand

Possessed of an expressive, throaty contralto, Sweden's Ida Sand has earned a reputation as one of Europe's finest jazz, pop, and R&B singers. She is also a fine pianist. After beginning her studio career as a guest on albums by Ulf Lundell and Samuel Ljungblahd, she got her first big break in 2006 when she appeared on the inaugural volume of Nils Landgren's charting Christmas with My Friends on Act. She made her solo debut on the label with 2007's Meet Me Around Midnight. Her jazzed-up readings of Bill Withers' "Use Me" and other covers resonated with DJs and listeners. Sand began touring Sweden and Europe. In 2009 she collaborated with her jazz guitarist husband Ola Gustafsson on True Love; alongside inventive covers she placed five stylistically diverse originals including the title track. For 2011's The Gospel Truth, Sand juxtaposed classic soul, gospel, and pop tunes. 2015's Young at Heart was a collection of interpretations of songs by and associated with Neil Young. Three years later, she released My Soul Kitchen, which offered a collection of R&B covers and jazzy originals. In 2021, she released her first self-produced album Do You Hear Me? composed entirely of originals. Sand was born Ida Kristina Sandlund in Stockholm in 1977, the daughter of Staffan Sandlund, a singer with the Royal Swedish Opera, and Cristina Sandlund, a pianist and professional church musician. Sand began singing as a toddler and learned to play piano. Though her mother gave piano lessons at home, Sand refused them. Fiercely independent, she taught herself to play by ear, practicing what her mom taught her students just after they left. Between the ages of eight and 14, she took cello lessons, but the instrument didn't compel her and she continued playing piano as her primary instrument. As an adolescent, she developed her deep love of soul and R&B, which has informed the direction of her career. At 16 she commenced formal piano studies at Stockholm's famed Music Gymnasium, an upper secondary educational institution, and continued her music studies at the Academy of Music in Gothenburg. Even before graduation she was freelancing in the city's many clubs and rehearsal studios. Sand returned to Stockholm in 2002, where her career as a backing singer and keyboard player took off. She worked with some of Sweden’s most-beloved artists including Carola, Bo Sundström, Jerry Williams, Christian Walz, Lisa Nilsson, and Orup, among others. She attained first-call status as both a singer and pianist, and had also begun to compose her own songs. In 2005 Sand appeared on several recordings, including poet and rock & roll singer and songwriter Ulf Lundell's smash hit double-album Lazarus and peer Samuel Ljungblahd's self-titled debut album. In November of 2006, she made her first recorded appearance on the Act label, playing piano and singing on Landgren's inaugural entry in the Christmas with My Friends series alongside guitarist Ulf Wakenius, keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft, and bassist Lars Danielsson. (She has appeared on each subsequent volume.) In March of 2007, she released her Act debut Meet Me Around Midnight. The 13-track set began with a smoky, sultry reading of Billy Eckstine's "Mr. Pianoman" and traveled a wide-ranging path; it included a cover of the track that won her national radio chart attention, Bill Withers' "Use Me." It also included Sand's first recorded originals in "Brutal Truth" and "Home." Though the album didn't chart, it garnered significant airplay. Later that year, her appearance on Landgren's international hit album, Licence to Funk, exposed her to an international audience. Sand assembled a band and began touring Europe in addition to playing a near-constant string of club dates at home. In March of 2009 she released True Love in collaboration with her jazz guitarist husband, Ola Gustafsson. The album featured five Sand originals including the title-track single and "Notice Me." She also delivered fine arrangements of Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" and the jazz-blues standard "Loverman." The album garnered airplay in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, and Belgium, and afforded Sand greater touring opportunities, including festival appearances. Later that year she guested on Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr's Upgraded in Gothenburg. Sand broke through to the charts with 2011's The Gospel Truth. The set began with a cooking read of the gospel and Civil Rights-era anthem "Eyes on the Prize," and rambled across a wildly diverse collection of covers by songwriters that included Brian Wilson, Nina Simone, and Joe Sample (who made a guest appearance on the tune with drummer Steve Gadd). The highlight was a reading of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," a duet with Raul Midon. It peaked at 23 on the Swedish album charts. A relentless international touring schedule, club residencies, and family duties kept Sand out of the studio for nearly four years. She returned with Young at Heart in 2015, a tribute to Neil Young that almost exclusively featured his songs. The lone exception was Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," a tune closely associated with him. The set peaked just outside the Top 50 on Sweden's album charts, won airplay across Europe and Asia, and registered on streaming charts. While on tour, Sand began flexing her R&B muscles, adding more funk and soul covers to her set list -- to the delight of audiences across Europe, and she found time to contribute to recordings by other artists. Her most significant appearance was on Magnus Lindgren's Stockholm Underground, an album tribute to Herbie Mann that included an international cast of all-stars like American guitarist/vocalist Eric Bibb and German trumpeter Till Brönner. Sand enlisted the core of the Stockholm Underground for 2018's My Soul Kitchen. The effort was a realization of a long-held aspiration to record an album tightly mixing jazz, soul, gospel, and blues with a canonical cover selection of songs by Al Green, Ray Charles, and the Neville Brothers, and a stellar read of J.C. Johnson's Bessie Smith vehicle "Empty Bed Blues." Further, her three originals employed the same aesthetic, as evidenced by the Allen Toussaint-influenced "Crash & Burn." While My Soul Kitchen didn't chart in Sweden, it did at streaming across the globe and earned critical accolades internationally. After touring for most of 2019, Sand and her band sought to continue into the following year, but were forced into quarantine when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. By May she was extremely restless. She received a phone call from her keyboardist Jesper Nordenström, who also felt caged in. He asked her to meet him in his home studio, and they asked other friends including Gustafsson, Dan Berglund, and Per Lindvall to join them. Sand showed up with five new songs. Masked and socially distanced, they cut them in one session. They met again a few weeks later, and Sand brought more material. The completed sessions emerged as Do You Hear Me?, Sand's first collection of all-original material. The album also marked the first time she sat in the producer's chair. The finished recording was mixed and mastered late in 2020 and appeared in April 2021.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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