Kongsberg Jazz Festival, July 6-9, 2011
Those same musicians, plus more, gathered to more than fill the stage of the Energy Mill for the Barry Guy New Orchestra, here with eleven players. In this outfit, Guy is the benevolent commander, composer and regulator of dynamics and the degrees by which structure and freedom should be heeded. The set deftly blended smart written passages with free blowing and gamey improv-guiding tactics, using numbered flash cards. Guy has some compelling ideas on the open-ended question of how to make free/non-free music swing and roar.
After midnight back at the Kongsberg kirke, percussionist Marilyn Mazur led her multi-cultural-wafting Celestial Circle bandwith bassist Anders Jormin, pianist John Taylor and the alluring, unpretentious Swedish singer Josefine Cronholmthrough some pleasant paces into the wee hours. It seemed a mild-mannered, odd-metered and atmosphere-loving benediction to a festival whose greatest strengths, from its semi-secret cache of free improv potency, were coaxed up on the spot.
As a harbinger of things to come, the festival's annual presentation of its annual DnB-NOR award went to... Arve Henriksen, that acknowledged front-runner of the present "new" Norwegian jazz movement (although he's been making waves and honing his liquidy trumpet sound, for two decades, mostly in sideman roles until recently). Press and sundry VIPs had gathered in a conference room overlooking the river to toast, and do the presenting honors. Henriksen, ensconced in Rotterdam for another award and a North Sea Jazz Festival gig that night, was unable to be in the hotel conference room, physically, but appeared through the surrogate, ghostly real time manifestation of skype on a large screen.
Henriksen spoke humbly of his gratitude for the award and pondered plans for the project he would work on, to be unveiled at next year's Kongsberg festival. He then played a sad-sweet tune on his pocket trumpet to end the session, a fitting capper and reminder of why we're all obsessively lured back to the well of jazz, and jazz festival culture.
Rivers, in culture and nature, keep rushing forward, barring any catastrophic interruption. May it always be thus.