The trials and tribulations of international travelflight delays, missing or damaged baggage, and increasing limitations on said baggagecan be enough to frustrate even the most patient and seasoned world traveler. But despite an almost incredible confluence of problems flying to Kristiansand, Norway, for Punkt 2010, once there all such problems were forgotten. Punkt is simply too important an event each year to be tarnished by extraneous (and, ultimately, irrelevant) distractions. Still, delays and the result of baggage issues effectively resulted in missing much of the first daycentered on the release of EDGE: Contemporary Music from South Norway (Self Produced, 2010), and featuring artists local to the region, including the remarkable saxophonist Froy Aagre
. It was a tremendous shame, but even catching only two of Punkt 2010's three days meant hearing a remarkable wealth musical innovation across a wide spectrum of musical styles in a short, concentrated space. Punkt isn't a jazz festivalits 2010 line- up included jazz performers to be sure, like trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer
, but it also featured singer/songwriter Unni Wilhelmsen, an 80th Anniversary concert featuring an Estonian choir performing the music of classical composer Veljo Tormis, and rock group Serena Maneesh. But with improvisation a key component of its defining conceptLive RemixPunkt always easily fits within a broader jazz continuum. Since its inception in 2005, Punkt's reputation has gained increasing visibility on an international scalea true achievement, considering how physically small the festival is. But small though it may be, Punkt has always been a festival that thinks big. Punkt takes place in a relatively small town of under 80,000 people, but small in Norway is a far different beast than small in North America. Kristiansand's Agder Theatre, with its 550-person capacity, will be replaced with Kilden in 2012a stunning complex including a theatre more than double the Agder's capacity, but also encouraging artistic innovation and collaboration by housing a theater company, a symphony orchestra and more under one roof. That, in and of itself, would be enough to distance Kristiansand from any North American town of similar size, but the town also has an impressive art gallery, a lively cultural community with artists known on local, national and international fronts, and, perhaps most importantly, Cultiva: a local initiative, now a few years old, that invests interest income on sale of excess electricity back into local culture to support new initiatives.
Fish Market, Kristiansand, Norway
New initiatives like Punkt. When producers/musicians Jan Bang
and Erik Honoré first conceived Punkt early in the 21st century, their concept of Live Remix was stunningly fresh and innovative. The two Artistic Directors envisioned a festival with no boundaries; where any style of music could be fodder for these Live Remixes, where concert performances were immediately followed, in another room at the Agder Theatre venue (The Alpha Room), with a performance that brought together other musicians to create further interpretation/expansion onor, at the very least, music inspired bythe show that came before. The Live Remix often brought musicians together who had never metmuch less played togethera real-time laboratory where the no-boundaries concert performances were inspiration for even more unfettered experimentation. That Punkt's Live Remixes can vary widelyfrom failed experiments to music that can actually surpass its source materialonly means that, with Punkt, the journey sometimes means more than the destination. To be sure, some Live Remixes succeed more than others, but they're always worth experiencing.
The past five years of Punkt have featured artists ranging from the cream of Norway's modern jazz sceneincluding keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft
But more than simply bringing an outstanding roster of performances and Live Remixes to Kristiansand every year for three or four days, Punkt is about an expanding network of peoplemusicians and journalists, yes, but also just plain friendswho believe in Punkt as a means to expand the frontiers of music in an organic and thoroughly positive fashion. And with Punkt as much a concept, a philosophy, an aesthetic, it's also a moveable feast, having been brought to London, England in 2008 and Mannheim, Germany in 2009. There are firm plans for a Punkt in Tallinn, Estonia in 2011, and discussions underway for possible forays into the North American market. You never know what is going to happen at Punkt; but you can be sure that, each and every year, existing relationships are strengthened, and new ones forged, that will result in future collaborations both within and outside the purview of the festivaland perhaps, even, a Punkt coming to a place near you.
As innovative as Punkt isa full history of the festival's conception and more can be found in an extensive 2010 All About Jazz interview with Bang, surrounding the release of his first album as a leader, the deep, dark and beautiful ...and poppies from Kandahar (SamadhiSound, 2010)like any festival, it faces the challenges of longevity; even an innovation as groundbreaking as Live Remix can become stale over time. With the festival in its sixth year, Punkt now faces the same challenge of all established festivals: how to remain relevant?
With a track record that has seen Punkt expand into new areasmusically and otherwiseeach and every year, there's little chance the festival will lose its creative edge or its growing reputation as a point in time, a place in the world, where innovation is de rigueur and attendees can be assured, each and every year, of experiencing one-time eventssometimes planned, even more often completely unexpectedthat will never be seen or heard ever again.
Faced with the same challenges of global recession as all festivals around the world, Punkt 2010 chose to reduce to a three-day festival, rather than the four days of 2009a clear sign of the festival's uncompromising dedication to quality over quantity. It may have been a shorter run, but, if anything, Punkt's attention to quality actually improved in 2010. There was the usual pristine sound in both the main theatre and The Alpha Room, thanks to a remarkable seven-person team of sound engineers; and Tord Knudsen's main theater lighting continued its track record of augmenting each and every performance with visuals far beyond that of most festivals. In order to place the focus on the laboratory-like nature of the Live Remixes, The Alpha Room has traditionally featured no set design or special lighting, but, for the first time, the 2010 edition of Punkt included some very spare lighting and understated attention to how the artists were set up in the 250-person room, successfully creating a visual shift between Live Remixes that mirrored the significant set design changes on the main stage, but without distracting from the most important aspect of The Alpha Room: the musical experiments taking place.
The Agder Theatre
In addition to a remarkable lineup that brought Supersilent to Punkt for the first time, and saw the return of festival regular Nils Petter Molvaer with his new trio, and the CD release concert for Bang's ...and poppies from Kandahar, Punkt Festival 2010 featured a surprise guest who, already a legend in the history of rock and roll, will Surely place the festival on the radar of an entirely new demographic. But more about that later.