All About Jazz Presents at Kongsberg Jazzfestival: Kongsberg, Norway, July 5-6, 2012
Eilertsen proved a great bassist, bandleader and writer of wonderful dwelling, circling and expanding songs, like his masterful "The Old Oak" (a nice image of his bass sound). This was, no doubt, a great band, with every member playing in a sophisticated fashion. Every piece (written by Eilertsen) allowed the quintet to reach far out: it happened in some pieces with great dynamics; in others, it rippled magnificently. But there was no scrubbing, no grazing, no hard edges, no screaming or loud laughter; only soft smiles, perhaps due to the music's bird's eye perspective. There was also no lightning or thunder, which some other groups brought in abundance. Instead, SkyDive stayed on the albatross side of the musical continuum.
Genre and style boundaries are easily crossed or wiped out in Norwegian music. Another remarkable thing: players continuously create new combinations which explore, discover and develop new territories as well as new sides of old landscapes. One of these combinations was the percussion trio formed bv trumpeter Arve Henriksen with percussionists Audun Kleive and Helge Norbakken. In the trio's early performances in 2011, despite being used to the image of Kleive's huge drum set, it was a surprise to see him operating on a small set of electronic Wave drums, together with Norbakken's special assortment of sound-making materials and Henriksen's acoustic and electronic devices, transforming noise and sounds into music. Here in Kongsberg, however, Kleive returned to the drum kit (equipped with just one set of high hats) when his Wave drums malfunctioned the day prior.
The trio's sound expedition started with muffled trumpet and various kinds of rustling sounds, gradually intensifying and transcending into heavy, violently raging soundscapes. With the roaring dying down, Henriksen's otherworldly maqam-singing emerged. Samples also surfaced, and were planted into the jagged and jolty sound biotope, a sound environment of accumulating drum waves big and small, loud and deep, and low and high, from wooden, metal and other material sources. Complementary to the spontaneous process of creation, there were side-projections, things discerned that may not have been intentionally put into the music, such as sounds like that of Tibetan horns.
This energy-driven rampant sprouting had its restrictions, too. Melodic elements were simple and repetitive. Effects very much depended on when, where, and into what process they were brought. With the trio's unique approach to tension, contrast and emergence in spontaneous creation, Henreiksen-Kleive-Norbakken finished the All About Jazz Presents series by keeping the field open and passing on the challenge.
There are many remarkable musicians and groups, spanning different generations, on the Norwegian scene. For something like All About Jazz Presents: Doing It Norway, a sharp selection was required, making no definite judgment. Musicians and groups you would expect were not there and the other way round: musicians who were not expected to be there were presented. Most importantly, the series shed some special light on the scene in a broader context, with a sufficient range and fertile perspective. Hopefully this first-time collaboration between All About Jazz, Music Export Norway and the Kongsberg Jazz Festival can serve as a focused sampleror a benchmark, evenacross a continually moving and changing field of music.
All Photos: John Kelman