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Sidsel Endresen: The Place to Be

By Published: July 3, 2012
AAJ: Your voice covers a very wide range of expression, from songs of sheer lyricism to the most daring experimental endeavors. Is there a sonic environment you can identify with the most right now?

SE: It is a matter of affinity and stage development that help you synergize with the others. That's what attracts me: when you don't know what is going to come out of any collaboration. It is not connected to any particular instrument, it is mainly connected to the way people play and the sounds they produce. For example, I love the incredible roughness and wonderful and intuitive timing of [guitarist] Stian Westerhus. That is where we meet. I also love the tenderness and total clarity of [live sampler] Jan Bang
Jan Bang
Jan Bang
live sampling
and the way he organizes his sounds together with his live samples along the way. He is so quick—and such a strong improviser. And then my collaboration with [percussionist] Thomas Stronen and Ståle Storløkken, in Humcrush, is wonderful and totally challenging. Our improvised trio can express a whole range of things: it can go from very sweet to very hysterical and then, again, to very monumental.

AAJ: In your so-called deconstructions, are you testing the expressive possibilities of your voice or rather exploring virgin musical territory?

SE: I think that one aspect of it is, to put it into very simple terms, that I don't like too much of anything. Something, which is too beautiful, or too funky, gets soon to be too much for me. I like to build something and then to break it up because most of the time something else is emerging then. I had been working for so many years with straight material so, at some point, some 15 years ago, I wanted to change that. To work totally improvised is extremely attractive to me because it offers the possibility to create music now, to compose in real-time. And to be in a situation where you have to rely on and activate your total musical knowledge and let go of all your plans and strategies and go into a real dialogue with whomever you are playing with. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it is forever worth trying. It is always the process that interests me and not the product.

AAJ: Is that covering your whole area of expression as a performer and as a composer?

SE: Yes, it does. Because improvisation is a taboo-free zone. It is a very joyful place to be for me musically. I didn't want to work into kind of jazz free-improv setting because there are heaps of definitions there of what is good and what is bad. I am not a puritan when it comes to which form of improvisation I am working with, and that allows me to let things happen; even things which may not belong there but, if you keep doing it long enough, at some point they do start belonging. There are different things happening with the different people I work with and that makes me feel that I am in a good place.

AAJ: Do you see yourself as an exponent of Nordic Jazz?

SE: I am obviously a part of it. It has less to do with the mountains and the fjords than the fact that we are a very small musical community, we know each other, we meet and interact. We have crossed the genre lines years ago and there's been so much of this genre-free mixing that it has influenced all of us along the way, of course. The other thing is that Scandinavia has a quite a different musical culture (of course I know the Norwegian one best). It also has to do with some very important people, like Jan Garbarek
Jan Garbarek
Jan Garbarek
sax, tenor
and Jon Christensen
Jon Christensen
Jon Christensen
, who have some laid fundamental groundwork. Jan was the first to merge the Afro-American music with Norwegian elements. People like that are very inspiring.

AAJ: It's remarkable that, along with valuing the musical heritage, you also went out into the world and explored new traditions and techniques. How does that reflect on your music?

SE: Trying to get familiar with other forms of musical expression is not a linear kind of experience. It is not like you find some music in another continent and you go into it. It would take you a lifetime to get to know those forms, so you can't be a dilettante with it. I don't understand Arabic, I don't understand Chinese or Japanese traditional singing, I don't know really what they are doing, but the sounds and the structures are very interesting to me. For me it was opening up all kinds of technical possibilities—what I can actually do with the voice.

AAJ: Are there any future plans you would like to share?

SE: I think there are some future plans out there I may not know about myself, and I am saying this because this is my reality. I hear someone playing, or somebody hears me, and we get in contact—or it is the people I meet and talk to, and then all of a sudden things start happening. I plan to keep my collaboration with Stian Westerhus and with Humcrush, and with Jan Bang and Erik Honoré. I plan to keep on working on my solo concerts and on a solo record; I am doing a live record album with Stian, which is going to come out in 2012 on Rune Grammofon.

Selected Discography

Humcrush/Sidsel Endresen, Ha! (Rune Grammofon, 2011) Jan Bang, ...and poppies from Kandahar (SamadhiSound, 2010) Sidsel Endresen/Jon Hassell, Punkt Live Remixes Vol. 1 (Jazzland, 2008) Punkt, Crime Scenes (Punkt , 2007) Jazzland Community, Jazzland Community (Jazzland , 2007) Sidsel Endresen, One (Sofa Music, 2006) Nils Petter Molvær, er (Universal, 2005) Jon Balke/Batagraf, Statements (ECM, 2005) Sidsel Endresen/Christian Wallumrød/Helge Sten Merriwinkle (Jazzland, 2004) Sidsel Endresen/Bugge Wesseltoft, Out here in there (Jazzland, 2002) Trygve Seim, Different Rivers (ECM, 2001) Sidsel Endresen, Undertow (Jazzland, 2000) Jon Balke, Saturation (Jazzland,1998) Sidsel Endresen/Bugge Wesseltoft, Duplex Ride (ACT, 1998) Sidsel Endresen/Bugge Wesseltoft, Nightsong (ACT, 1994) Sidsel Endresen, Exile (ECM, 1994)

Photo Credits Page 1: Snare Knut Page 2: Jan Hangeland Page 3: Michael Hoefner

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