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Molde Jazz: Day 1, July 13, 2009

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Arve Henriksen Cartography / Bugge Wesseltoft
Molde Jazz
Molde, Norway
July 13, 2009


Descending by plane into Molde airport, it's difficult not to be in awe of the geography surrounding this small town of 25,000 people. Depending on the source, Molde is surrounded by anywhere from 87 to 222 mountains; of course, much of this has to do with the definition of what a mountain is, and where one ends and the next one begins. Regardless, the topography is stunning, a truth made only more compelling on the ground, where a long stretch of coastline reveals more mountains than can easily be counted, in a town that, as is the case with so many small Norwegian locales, possesses the kind of access to culture that would be impossible to support in most (if not all) similarly sized North American towns.

Molde Jazz Festival



It may not be a festival with the same size and attendance as the recently completed Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, but as Norway's largest jazz festival, Molde Jazz possesses a similar vibe. Like Montreal, streets are closed down, but the party atmosphere is a little different. With kiosks set up down the town's main street selling everything from CDs and food to fur and African percussion instruments, it's a small, self-contained village that attracts people to ticketed and free performances that take place at 14 different venues/sites.



Over the course of six days, Molde Jazz will present over 70 shows featuring some of Norway's most innovative artists—amongst them, trumpeters Arve Henriksen

Arve Henriksen
Arve Henriksen
b.1968
trumpet
and Mathias Eick
Mathias Eick
Mathias Eick
b.1979
trumpet
, pianists/keyboardists Bugge Wesseltoft
Bugge Wesseltoft
Bugge Wesseltoft
b.1964
piano
, Ståle Storløkken and Christian Wallumrød, and groups Huntsville
Huntsville
Huntsville

band/orchestra
, Supersilent
Supersilent
Supersilent

band/orchestra
and Jaga Jazzist—as well as an equally significant roster from abroad, including pianists Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
b.1929
piano
and Marilyn Crispell
Marilyn Crispell
Marilyn Crispell
b.1947
piano
, guitarist Mary Halvorson, singers Jamie Cullum
Jamie Cullum
Jamie Cullum

vocalist
and Melody Gardot
Melody Gardot
Melody Gardot
b.1985
vocalist
, trumpeters Tomasz Stanko
Tomasz Stanko
Tomasz Stanko
b.1942
trumpet
and Ambrose Akinmusire
Ambrose Akinmusire
Ambrose Akinmusire
b.1982
trumpet
, and saxophonists Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman
b.1969
saxophone
and Tony Malaby
Tony Malaby
Tony Malaby

sax, tenor
. There's even some beyond jazz on offer, including much-anticipated performances by Marianne Faithful and Leonard Cohen.

Molde Jazz Festival



But it's even more than that. With throngs of people crowding the streets from early in the day to early the next morning—with night only falling fully around midnight and the sun already back on the rise by 4:00 AM, it's easy to keep partying around the clock—musicians even travel to Molde from distant destinations to busk on the street, playing everything from world music to folk music to traditional jazz. And while Norway's international reputation is, perhaps, largely considered for its innovative, forward-thinking approach to jazz, one look at the CD kiosks and one listen to the youth band parading down the street early in the afternoon of the first day of Molde's 49th edition and it becomes crystal clear that the jazz tradition, in its more conventional sense, also remains alive and well.



When the ticketed shows are over, the party continues in the streets, with live performances continuing outdoors until well after 1:00 AM, and bars and clubs packed until well after that. If Montreal is like being on another planet, Molde is like being in a parallel universe—one where hotels have stunning performance spaces, mountains can be seen peeking through even the densest cloud cover while walking between venues that are never more than 10 minutes from each other, and fans of the music traverse the broad age range that some (clearly mistakenly) believe is missing in jazz. No jazz festival for grey hairs this; Molde Jazz is proof that it's possible to draw a younger audience without sacrificing the integrity of the music. It's always been more than a little condescending to consider jazz and improvised music as something that needs to be dumbed down for the youth market, and Norway has been proving, for over four decades, that arts funding to performance and education can and will result in a remarkable upsurge of sophisticated young artists.

Molde Jazz Festival



Molde has its own equivalent of Montreal's By Invitation series, naming an artist in residence each year to bring a series of shows—some with existing groups, others representing first time encounters. This year the artist in residence is trumpeter/vocalist Arve Henriksen, and with Cartography (ECM, 2008) being both his most fully realized album to date and one that is expanding his reach to an international audience, it's a strong choice. Henriksen will appear with his Cartography group, the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble and Supersilent—the groundbreaking noise improv group's first appearance as a trio following the departure of drummer Jarle Vespestad. He'll also perform in duet with Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazur

Marilyn Mazur
Marilyn Mazur
b.1955
percussion
, and launch a unique performance featuring Cartography band mate/live sampler Jan Bang, keyboardist Ståle Storløkken and ECM recording group Trio Mediaeval. And for those with strong constitutions, whether it be after a night of little sleep or none whatsoever, Henriksen will deliver a unique performance at 7:00AM on the last day of the festival, featuring one of Norway's most influential artists, keyboardist/composer Jon Balke
Jon Balke
Jon Balke
b.1955
piano
, alongside percussionist Terje Isungset, cellist Svante Henryson and dancer Therese Skauge.

Chapter Index

  1. Arve Henriksen Cartography
  2. Bugge Wesseltoft

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