Molde Jazz: Day 6, July 18, 2009
With all the kiosks on the street packing up to leave by the time Henriksen's final performance had ended, it was clear that Molde Jazz was nearly over. Still, the party continued to go on, late into the next morning, with outdoor and club performances keeping the streets hopping until nearly 3:00 AM.
For a first time visit to Molde, it couldn't have been a better year. With every show a winner, it's difficult to choose favorites. But special mention has to go to Arve Henriksen's artist in residence stay at Molde Jazz 2009. An encouraging trend at festivals that do such featuresthe same applies to Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, among othersis the invitation of younger artists who are moving the music forward, rather than jazz legends who have been and will continue to be key figures. But even more for Molde Jazz, it was a nod to the music of its own country, rather than an international figure. The jazz scene in Norway may not be replacing that of the United States, but it now exists as an equal, with as much innovative music coming from its small population of 4.6 million, as is coming from the orders of magnitude larger US.
Every festival has something to offer, but Molde, in addition to a terrific roster that balanced important Norwegian music with that from countries abroad, takes place in one of the most beautiful places in the worlda place made all the more appealing with the long days of summer, where getting out of a 10:30 PM show in daylight keeps an energy going that makes it possible to function on little sleep and still get up for an early morning performance. It seemed that a new mountaintop could be seen at every turn, and with this small town built with the attention to architecture and cultural facilities of a much larger North American city, it's an ideal place for any kind of festival.
But at the end of the day, much of the festival's ongoing success had to go to its staffin particular festival director Jan Ole Otnæs, who created a remarkable schedule of music, and head of press relations, Torbjørn Haugen. Both men were incredibly busy throughout the festival's six days, yet went out of their way to make journalistssome who'd traveled considerable distances to come to Moldefeel more than welcome. The volunteer staff, whether it was the drivers, the security, the ticket-takers or those on the street, was friendly beyond the call of duty, and extremely helpful. The small things can make or break the vibe of a festival, and while the larger issues are critical in nature, so too are those small extras, like spending time talking to a security person at Kulturhuset or a Swedish fan in line for a show.
Molde and surrounding area from top of Mount Vardem
All these things and more make Molde a festival with a track record that speaks for itself. And with its 50th anniversary coming in 2010, a return to Molde is certainly something to be hoped for.
Visit Arve Henriksen, Jon Balke, Terje Isungset, Svante Henryson, Jaga Jazzist, Trio Mediaeval, Jan Bang and Molde Jazz on the web.
All Photos: John Kelman