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Live Reviews

All About Jazz Presents at Kongsberg Jazzfestival: Kongsberg, Norway, July 5-6, 2012

By Published: July 25, 2012
Jørgensen's participation in All About Jazz Presents was especially meaningful, as it was the first time he had performed as a bandleader, introducing a new quintet of tremendous promise: longtime collaborator/percussionist Terje Isungset, whose Ice Music has gained him international stature; harmonium player Sigbjorn Apeland, whose duo with violinist Nils Økland on Lysøen: Hommage à Ole Bull (ECM, 2011) explored a set of overlooked music from the late 1800s; Kongsberg-born keyboardist Morten Qvenild, a defining force in In the Country and his duo with singer Solveig Slettahjell and in Susanna and The Magical Orchestra; and Bergen-based electric bassist Morten Skage.

Jørgensen's trumpet playing possessed a very direct, strong and sharp tone, regardless of whether he is playing lyrically or bursting out. His interaction with Isungset was tremendously varied and rich. Isungset was also surprising; playing with untreated knotty and gnarled sticks, he does what those sticks allow him to do and it always sounded both appropriate and wonderful. Sound-wise he regularly let a reindeer trot along, though integrated into the sound as a whole it was not immediately recognizable as such—a quality that also applied to his sophisticated stone percussion.

Contrary to first impressions, nothing worked in a standardized or usual fashion. Qvenild applied his electronics in subtle ways when injecting them into Apeland's astonishing harmonium efforts, and Skage contributed flexibly and well-portioned to both melodic and percussive dimensions. Jørgensen played percussion, too, and opened up to sing deeply from within. The group as a whole carried music from deeper grounds to a higher plane. In the grandiose finale, the sky and soul opened up to joyful delight. Jørgensen had so much more to offer here than in the Kuara trio; a great musician living the music.

An hour later, Jørgensen was back again,this time in Kongsberg's wonderful baroque church with Jon Balke's Magnetic Book. Kongsberg Kirke has fine acoustics and a famous organ, built in 1765 by Gottfried Heinrich Gloger and restored in 2001 by Jürgen Ahrend. The organ has given name to an annual chamber music festival in Kongsberg (Glogerfestspillene), held in January each year.

Pianist/percussionist/conductor Balke performed with a four-piece group featuring Jørgensen, clarinetist Havard Lund, bassist Bjørn Kjellemyr and percussionist Helge Norbakken, along with Copenhagen-based violinist Bjarte Eike and six string players from the Barokksolistene, who were last heard with the pianist performing music from Siwan (ECM, 2008) alongside Moroccan singer Amina Alaoui, trumpeter Jon Hassell
Jon Hassell
Jon Hassell
and others during their 2009 Shared Sounds Festival in Berlin—a great experience. Eike started Barokksolistene in 2005 as a flexible ensemble appearing as a chamber orchestra, but also as a pub band, free improvising group, crossover ensemble and intimate chamber group. Magnetic Book is a continuation of Balke's Magnetic North Orchestra, which joins percussion and strings with improvising soloists on the basis of a series of signals to direct the ongoing improvisation.

This sounds promising, but reality truly excels the description by far. There are not many ensembles acting and playing in such a loose way with these diverse elements. The music traveled from a baroque piece with Jørgensen singing, to a bolero-like passage with clarinet and wild percussion, and a joyous trumpet solo with strings and pure percussion discussion, set to a deep, up-tempo groove. The string-players not only moved freely throughout the church with their instruments, but also got in and out of the music, both loosely and floating. All was kept together by Balke's and Eike's cues, and driven magnificently by the great Norbakken. This music has to be experienced live in a place like this; up to now, the live experience had always been far superior to Balke's Magnetic North Orchestra recordings.

Bassist Mats Eilertsen chose a stellar team to built great, floating and flickering lines around his grandly rotating and dark bass: two Norwegians (saxophonist Tore Brunborg
Tore Brunborg
Tore Brunborg
and guitarist Thomas T. Dahl); and two Fins (pianist Alexi Tuomarila (1974) and drummer Olavi Louhivouri, who both also work in Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko's Dark Eyes Quintet), formed SkyDive. With a lineup like this, it was possible to surge and wallow in a set of great quality.

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