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Live Reviews

Kongsberg Jazzfestival: Music from the Hall of the Mountain King

By Published: July 18, 2008
Among other features remaining unsampled that day were a major concert featuring Norwegian pop star Sondre Lerche with the Norwegian Navy Big Band, two more left field energy acts (an all-star Nordic line-up of Nilssen-Love, Frederk Ljungkvist and Jonases Kullhammar and Westergaard, and the Norwegian death-jazz act Bushman's Revenge) as well as Danish trumpeter Stefan Pasborg with his Odessa 5. However one other essential feature of a broadly based festival did find its way into my program—the children's show. Billed as Casiokids I had expected a nifty balance of digital absurdity with some good child-centered fun. It turned out to be less cutting-edge than expected, with a guitar/drum/bass line up and more of a Teletubbies repertoire. But the intended audience reveled in the fun, so who am I to criticize?

Day 4—Saturday, July 5

The final festival day dawned again brightly, and the program itself shone with some memorable jewels. As well as a selection of jazz films (Oscar Peterson in Montreux 1975 and Monk's Straight—No Chaser), some had to be ignored, like Markus Strickland playing with local boy made good Lage Lund, and an evening with Wisconsin's own Tierney Sutton.

Instead I found my full share of left field fun, in the form of 2 outdoor avant-garde acts and a sweltering sound bomb in a quaint tea room! The first show involved Belgian bassist (sculptor and painter) Peter Jacquemyn with Swiss violist Charlotte Hug performing to each other and an audience crammed in a Beijing-style inner courtyard. The music involved much exploration of dynamics of their respective instruments, which occasionally duplicated each other at different ends of the string spectrum, though like much acoustic improvisational work seemed sometimes to resemble performance art or street theatre. They were followed by a Dutch guitarist and a French clarinetist, who actually ended their set almost falling into each other's arms in laughter! Terrie Ex (of veteran Dutch punk band The Ex) and Dans les Arbres's lead instrumentalist enjoyed their efforts to entertain—and the music was fun too!

For many the final day's program was crowned by a late night church-based acoustic concert involving Johannes Martens and 4 colleagues playing both his own and some of their own compositions, and resulting in more discussion breakfast discussion. For some this was topped by the much-heralded concert of young, critically acclaimed Norwegian trumpeter, Mathias Eick. This was a very interesting outing by a talented young quartet, opening with some wistful trumpet-led romances and developing into some serious funky extemporization between pianist Andreas Ulvo, bassist Nicolai Eilertsen and drummer Audun Kleive. Very listenable, especially the dueling between Eick's tablas and Ulvo's Fender Rhodes, but rather reminiscent of guitar-led progressive jazz-rock, with that role appropriated by the trumpet.

The jewel in the crown for me had to be a 90 minute set of ear-bending improvisational exploration from Norway's Supersilent. Although nearly 10 years and 7 CDs along the road, the band has had limited exposure outside its home country, and given the genre of their music it will surely stay that way.

The music is highly electronic with only one of its members not usually producing a synthesized sound—and that's the drummer. No surprise that an essential element is the use and abuse of rhythm. The band's approach nowadays is totally improvisational, foregoing any rehearsals and even eschewing discussion of their collaborations. Telepathic communication skills must by now be well honed as the band members trade tones and timbres in a helter-skelter of pinball table cacophony. If British critic Julie Birchill had been present she would surely have reasserted that this was 'a whole pile of notes in search of a melody,' but maybe would also have admitted that melody is often very close to the surface. Trumpeter (vocalist and electronic percussionist) Arve Henriksen and keyboardist Stale Storlokken often took the lead in intimating a melodic line that would then disappear in the welter of crossbeats and barely constrained furor.

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