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An interesting aspect of the Norwegian nu jazz scene is how much fine acoustic work each of the key players did before moving into electronic, drum-n-bass-influenced territory. As examples, Nils Petter Molvær (whose albums Khmer and Solid Ether are two of the defining statements of the genre) was a member of Masqualero, a group that brought together the free searching musicality of late-'60s Miles Davis with the more lyrical, impressionistic textures associated with the ECM label. Bugge Wesseltoft, another crucial figure, recorded with Arild Andersen, Sidsel Endresen and Billy Cobham.
Audun Kleive is no exception. He receives far less recognition than he deserves as one of the most individual and talented drummers around. A key example of his abilities in an acoustic setting can be found on the album Off Balance by Jon Balke's Oslo-13, where he drives the complex big band charts forward with his propulsive playing, providing rhythmic momentum in the pedal hi-hat, freeing the hands from their usual time-keeping role to allow more expressive use of toms and cymbals. Recorded in 1988, this predates similar work by drummers like Billy Kilson or Eric Harland.
Generator X is an excellent album and could rank as one of the key statements in Norwegian nu jazz. It's very interesting in its range of influences and how it combines these to create such a cohesive whole. The most arresting track is "Obelisk," which apart from its very modern rhythmic elements could almost have been a lost track from Miles Davis's Get Up With It sessions. Trumpeter Arve Henriksen opens with his trademark flute-like tone but soon moves to a more hard-edged timbre for some gritty soloing over the dense, misty backdrop painted by Kleive's rhythms and the shifting keyboard textures created by Christian Wallumrød and Ståle Storløkken, both of whom give more than a hint of Herbie Hancock in their use of harmony and the timbres conjoured from their very retro '70s array of keyboards (Rhodes, Prophet and Moog). One thing that is striking about the music is how it retains a sense of form throughout and yet remains extremely spontaneous and inspired.
The album is full of interesting textures. "Never Thought I Would," one of two live tracks adding Jan Bang to the lineup, opens with a thudding house-like bass drum beat over which Kleive's vocals and the keyboards create a range of textures very different from those on "Obelisk." On "Framework," the keyboards show Weather Report influences, but transplanted to an edgy modern environment characterised by Kleive's live drumming, very effectively fractured through editing, and other electronic textures. The more contemplative "Mainstay" also shows Weather Report influences, especially in the very Zawinalesque Moog and Rhodes parts.
Generator X can in many ways be seen as an extension of the timbres and sense of musical experimentation found in mid-'70s Miles Davis or early Weather Report, whilst combining this with many thoroughly modern elements to create a sound world not really found anywhere else.
Track Listing: 1. Framework, 2. Never Thought I Would/Bitt Decomposition, 3. Mainstay, 4. Obelisk, 5. Generator X/Bitt Decomposition
Personnel: Arve Henriksen - Trumpet; Christian Wallumr