Since emerging in the 1990s with Wibutee, saxophonist/flautist Håkon Kornstad has gradually evolved into one of Norway's most exciting and innovative playersa description that would, no doubt, be applied by a broader international audience were he to recieve the exposure he so richly deserves. In recent years, combining unparalelled extended technique on his instruments with equally imaginative use of live electronics, Kornstad has become a solo artist like no other. Single Engine
(Jazzland, 2007) demonstrated this intrepid player's ability to create real-time orchestral sonics almost entirely on his own, with only a handful of guests on a few of its ten tracks; on Dwell Time
he goes it completely alone, for an album that expands on Single Engine
, all the more remarkable that it was recorded over two nights in an Oslo Church with no overdubs and only minimal post-production editing.
Kornstad isn't alone in his use of multiphonics; what does distinguish him is his abilty to create consonant harmonics that result in appealing voicings rather than the usual dissonant screeches. But here, his techniques have expanded even further, to include all manner of percussive textures, fluttering overtones and, quite simply, sounds that shouldn't come from a saxophone, flute, or flutonettea strange hybrid of flute and clarinet. Like fellow Norwegian envelope pushers including Arve Henriksen
, Sidsel Endresen
, and Eivind Aarset
, Kornstad stretches the definition of what his instruments can be by honing new techniques to the point that they're part of a larger sonic arsenal, allowing him to make music that possesses all the elements most think of as fundamental: melody, harmony, and rhythm.
The music may be all-improvised, but even when creating something from nothing, Kornstad thinks compositionally, with the three-chord vamp of "Oslo" easily convertible to a pop tune, were he to add other players. But, in reality, Kornstad doesn't need a bassist, a drummer, a guitarist, a keyboardist; what makes it so compelling is its possession of everything a song needs, from the bass saxophone riff, peppered with percussive hits, to his layered tenor harmonies and motif-driven melodies. Created in-the-moment, it's also perfectly constructed.
There are additional song-driven improvisations, including the swinging 6/8 of "Noir" and more atmospheric "Klaff," but Dwell Time's largely dark, intimate vibe is also broadened by freer-flowing pieces like the opening "Still One." "En Attendant Le Soleil" is a clear album highlight where, with his looped phrases and muscular main voice, Kornstad finds a nexus point where the stark, barren landscapes of Norwegian saxophone legend Jan Garbarek
(ECM, 1977) meet minimalism forefather Terry Riley's mantra-like "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band," from his classic A Rainbow in Curved Air
In performance, either alone or in duet with Sidsel Endresen, Kornstad continus to cement his position as one of the leading improvisers of the new millennium. With the exceptional Dwell Time, those unfortunate enough not to have access to Kornstad in performance can truly hear what the buzz is all about.
Personnel: Håkon Kornstad: tenor and bass saxophone, flute, flutonette, live electronics.