All About Jazz Presents at Kongsberg Jazzfestival: Kongsberg, Norway, July 5-6, 2012
Eple, playing with whispering drums and a bass often sounding more like a human voice, created a rare and concentrated tranquility. Minimal movement went with a maximum of tension, which transmuted tones into shimmering pearls. These musicians were masters in circumvention and suspense, having deeply absorbed musical influences of various kinds, from the tonal richness of folk to modern minimalism. Seglem, who joined the group in the second half, fit in naturally, deepening the performance's singing quality. It was a testimony to the enduring power of carving sound like a river, soil and solid rock. The group went on passionately, almost over-stimulating the audience with the wonderful flow of its music. The trio's performance undoubtedly and strongly manifested Norwegian traits and clearly set the tone for more sounds to come.
Next was a contrasting double duo appearance, both with electric guitar: one a new match; the other an existing one. The first one brought together two different temperaments: Eivind Aarset, the guitar noir inventora climax-player who creates long, panoramic arcs; and Thomas Strønen, the Humcrush percussionist who emulates the regular irregularity of surrounding sounds, letting it sing and unite with old grooves and new music structures. Strikingly, the eight configurations chosen for All About Jazz Presents showcased six top-notch Norwegian drummers, some performing more than once in the series: Terje Isungset (with trumpeters Per Jørgensen and Arve Henriksen); Audun Kleive;, Torstein Lofthus; Helge Norbakken (with Henriksen and pianist Jon Balke); Jonas Howden Sjøvag; and Strønen.
Aarset and Strønen started this first meeting groping and sensing ...but they had to. For awhile, it was treading water in a sonic landscape of desolate plains struck by meteorites (Strønen's heavily amplified bass drums). It took time for both players to connected, but batting impulses back and forth, they ultimately built a platform on which to launch a rocket. It was a long wait, but finally they took a different stance from which a burning prairie song emerged. After this breakthrough, the rhythmical and percussive intensity of Aarset's playing increased considerably and the players broke new ground for awhile, balancing their modes of repetition, shifting, changing and dissolving. It was a set that opened up a wonderful insight into this kitchen of elements, colors and modes, where electronics have become second nature.
Vocalist Sidsel Endresen and guitarist Stian Westerhus have just released their first album together, Didymoi Dreams (Rune Grammofon, 2012), a live recording from last year's performance at Bergen's Nattjazz Festival of Bergen, and Westerhus has a new album to come soon, also on Rune Grammofon label, The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers (2012). The label, led by Fra Lippo Lippi guitarist Rune Kristoffersen, is now fifteen years old, with a flourishing existence that has presented a range of some of Norway's most creative musicians and their adventurous outings.
The Endresen/Westerhus duo, while still relatively new, has gone through an amazing artistic evolution and growth in the past two yearsone which is hard to keep up with. Its creative soul, with rich capabilities and possibilities, continues to unfold uniquely every time Westerhus and Endresen play together. Didymoi Dreams was an extraordinary experience live in Bergen, and listening to this great recording does, indeed, bring things together as if in a dream. In Kongsberg, the audience leaned forward assuredly and, right from the beginning, was thrown in and immediately blown away when both musicians entered the stage and approached the music vigorously, completely surrendering both spiritually and physicallybut especially Endresen, who entered on high level with her vocals. Endresen and Westerhus captured the audience from the first momentintense, captivating, and inescapable. Acting totally in the spur of the moment, things fell in place, were sensed fully and made sense immediately. This was no miracle, but a real dream; one of those rare occasions when a completely improvised piece of music cut deeply...very deeply, in this case; something that could be both sensed and seen all around the venue.