Ozella Music: Nordic Beauty and Beyond
Many folksongs were used for specific purposes and on Nordic Winter there are two songs related to weddings. "Brudesang Fra Solør" is a poignant hymn with accordion and acoustic guitar while "Saktmodig Brudemarsj" is imbued with a tinge of sadness. Throughout, the mixture of instruments, including clarinet, marimba and euphonium, creates a delicate balance and Nordic Winter comes across as both an authentic piece of folklore and a through-composed work of art.
Like his countrymen in Streif, saxophonist Karl Seglem is interested in Norwegian folklore and uses it in his own unique interpretation of his country's cultural heritage. He has even gone so far that he plays goat horn, but on NORSKjazz.no he sticks to the saxophone.
His backing on the record is the Eple trio, with pianist Andreas Ulvo, bassist Sigurd Hole and drummer Jonas Howden Sjøvaag. This trio is the perfect choice for Seglem, who likes to challenge himself and navigate in the space between tradition and experiment.
The link between past times and modernity is spelled out in the title, which references Norwegian jazz, but is set up as a web-address. However, those who will take time to log on to the album will find that it's sprinkled with a pastoral feeling that lies light-years away from the quick flashes of technology. Instead, the melodies are allowed to unfold slowly with grace.
The organic sounds of the instruments really come through, as when Sigurd Hole's bowed bass sets the stage for the rest of the band in the tune "Året Hallar." Likewise, Ulvo is a joy to behold with his empathic backing and finely carved chords that sing in dialogue with Seglem, whose horn manifests itself as both forceful and ethereal, and elegantly draws lines in the air. This is Norwegian jazz of the highest order, and like the best work of saxophonist Jan Garbarek, Seglem's music is timeless and unique.
Heilt Nye Vei
Seglem sings through his horn, but Ozella also has several vocalists in their roster. One of the signings is Norwegian singer Elin Furubotn on whose album Heilt Nye Vei Seglem contributes with his saxophone, but actually he also sings on one of the songs. On "Du Vett Godt Ka Eg E Sure For" his whispering background vocal is a clear contrast to Furubotn's crystalline voice and adds to the song's intimacy that is built around a simple skeleton of saxophone and acoustic guitar.
Norway basically has two forms of their language: bokmål and nynorsk. Furubotn sings nynorsk, which is closer to the traditional dialects of the country as opposed to the big city Oslo where bokmål is dominant. Furubotn's voice is natural and clear like water from a deep well. On Heilt Nye Vei she sings of the many choices in life and the troubles and joys that belong to living. Sometimes she uses simple and striking metaphors, as when she sings of the different colors of thoughts on the song "Tankane Har Fargar."
Stylistically Furubotn lies between folksongs, pop and jazz. Her album could easily have been released on the branch of the label that concentrates on songwriters: Ozella Songways. For instance, the title track is pure pop-rock where the verse builds up to a soaring chorus. The title of the album, Heilt Nye Vei, is translated to "New Path" and Furubotn actually finds her very own way between traditional folksongs, enchanting pop and stylish jazz.
Randi Tytingvåg is another singer signed to Ozella and like Furubotn she isn't afraid to mix folk, pop and jazz into her own thing.
On Let Go the influence from folk is evident in the way that instruments like accordion and violin take a central role. For instance, "Rat Race" is an enchanting waltz with piano and accordion and "Ghost" is a giddy accordion-tune where Tytingvåg's voice follows and breaks away from the instrument in a game of hide and seek.
The influence of world music is clear on "Interlude"with the clarinet dancing away in a style not unlike Klezmer-musicbut while the rhythms are varied and take their cues from folksongs around the world, the tone of the album remains Nordic and firmly planted in the form of the ballads.
As a singer, Tytingvåg understands how to get to the core of a song and while she is able to stretch and sculpt her voice like a true jazz singer, she never strays away from the narrative of the song, and in her band, including pianist Anders Aarum and accordion-player Espen Leite, she has the kind of empathic backing that allows the music to breathe organically and a ballad like "Playful" is simply perfection.
Helge Lien Trio
Another artist who knows how to play ballads to perfection is the Norwegian pianist and composer, Helge Lien, whose trio with bassist Frode Berg and drummer Knut Aalefjær is one the strongest cards in the Ozella roster.