fri 14/06/2024

Reissue CDs Weekly: This Is Our Music - Jazz Out Of Norway | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: This Is Our Music - Jazz Out Of Norway

Reissue CDs Weekly: This Is Our Music - Jazz Out Of Norway

Double-disc testament to a nation’s fertile musical seedbed

Skarbø Skulekorps, creators of a musical tribute to a washing machineHelge Skodvin

The Turnamat is a type of washing machine made by AEG. In the composition titled “Turnamat”, Seventies-type synths, wobbly keyboard lines and hard-grooving drums give way to a brass-led interlude suggesting an acquaintance with the compositions of Lalo Schifrin. It’s as if a jazz-inflected soundtrack from 45 years ago has been shoved into a blender rather than a washing machine, then reconstituted and given a major buff-up.

“Turnamat” is by Skarbø Skulekorps, an oddball Norwegian jazz outfit.

“Surrender” is as impactful. On this, over just-short of five minutes, the sax player Bendik Giske plays continuous cycling sequences while droning noises phase in and out. Philip Glass is in there. Possibly Colin Stetson too. Unless it’s done with looping, Giske is as much a master of circular breathing as Anthony Braxton and Evan Parker.

This Is Our Music Jazz out of Norway“22” by the Mats Eilertsen Trio is more restrained and foregrounds Harmen Fraanje’s precise, rain-on-a-window piano without distracting from the conversation between Thomas Strønen’s drums and Eilertsen’s bass. The trio play as unit. “22” was written by Eilertsen when he received news of the attacks at Utøya on 22 July 2011.

Håkon Kornstad Trio’s “Di' tu se fedele” is a peculiar interpretation of the aria from Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera. Kornstad sings, while Frode Haltli plays accordion and Mats Eilertsen crops up again on double bass. When not singing, Kornstad plays sax. The track is plucked from Im Treibhaus, an album where Grieg, Schubert, Wagner and more are also given similarly jazz-inclined makeovers.

These are four tracks from This Is Our Music – Jazz Out Of Norway, a 28-track double CD compiled to provide a flavour of the current state of play of jazz from, indeed, Norway. “Beastie, Beastie” by the metal-informed Hedvig Mollestad Trio and the Deep Purple-meets-Colosseum heaviness of Elephant9’s “Farmer’s Secret” help ensure that this jazz breaches the borders of genre.

This Is Our Music Jazz out of Norway_Moskus_Christain WintherOverall, This Is Our Music smartly serves its purpose as a musical taster by stimulating a desire to hear more. But after taking it in in one sitting, it needs dipping into on a track-by-track basis as, on a first pass, the more measured and tranquil cuts tend to be overshadowed by the harder-hitting and weirder contributions. Viz: Jo Berger Myhre & Ólafur Björn Ólafsson’s glacial “Grain of Sand”, which is sequenced after Elephant9. On that first pass, it’s lost in the slipstream created by “Farmer’s Secret”. Perhaps a quieter, reflective first disc, and a denser, more exploratory second disc would have made for a more coherent initial impression?

Nonetheless, once digested this is revealed as an extraordinary testament to a fertile national musical seedbed, one where creativity surmounts demonstrations of technique. Sure, Mollestad, for example, is a hot guitarist but the playing serves the music. Wako’s pulsing “Trakterer du musikk?” has Arve Henriksen guesting on trumpet and crescendos crowned with synths, but the melodic underpinning is so strong that an urge to hum along comes almost instantly. It’s the same with the playfully intricate “Irsk setter” by Moskus (pictured above left, photo by Christian Winther), where a child-size accordion, hand-claps, vibes and more serve a melody inspired by Zimbabwe’s Jonah Sithole & The Deep Horizone.

It all adds up to make This Is Our Music – Jazz Out Of Norway a primer: a form of education. More importantly, it's enjoyable and a hell of a ride. While physical copies are best for getting to grips with what’s featured, it can also be found on the standard streaming services.

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