Saxophonist Håkon Kornstad, although barely into his thirties, has been involved over the last ten years in many different projects spanning many genres, always trying to stretch himself and expand the tools needed for self-expression. He has developed a distinctive sound on his horn and for those who know his music, an attitude that is serious, but with a twinkle-in-the-eye sense of humor.
Single Engine represents the results of all of the work that has gone into finding his own voice. Kornstad presents a thoughtful, introspective and joyful sound where every note is given equal weight and definition. Most will probably be familiar with Kornstad through his incisive, spare and intense, but low-key Moserobie duets with pianist Havard Wiik, Eight Tunes We Like (2005) and The Bad And The Beautiful (2007).
Ostensibly a solo recording, Single Engine finds Kornstad using some electronics including sampling and looping to provide accompaniment. Keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft, founder of Jazzland Records and a strong musical and attitudinal influence on Kornstadt, joins in on one track ("B") while guitarist Knut Reiersrud and bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten both appear on two different tracks.
Kornstad's main instrument is tenor saxophone, but here he also plays bass saxophone, flute, melodica and something he calls a flutonette. This hybrid (or bastard) instrument is made from a flute body, with the mouthpiece removed and replaced with one from a clarinet. Doing this changes the overall length of the instrument and hence the tempering, forcing the player to "use his ears and not his fingers" to create its interesting sound while staying in tune. This instrument is featured on the solo "Flutonette" and the very American, bluesy and catchy "Turkey, Texas," which also uses a loop machine.
Multiphonics play a major part on two tracks, the very happy and bright "Sweden" and "Bansull," which is on the somber side. However, Kornstad does not merely split the tone, but manages to harmonize the main tone with the harmonic. On the former tune, the harmony created is used for chorus-like sections, which sound between solo interjections. The effort to harmonize correctly can be heard more on the latter tune, due to the minor key. However, the overall effect does not sound like a trick and, says Kornstad, "might be useful as my own accompaniment, should my colleagues refrain from playing with me in the future."
The longest tune, "B," is a homage to bassist Bjornar Andresen, who was from an earlier generation and another strong influence on many players. It's a mysterious and appealing journey backed by Wesseltoft and Flaten that floats between free-form improvising and rock-anthem sections.
With Single Engine, Kornstad exposes his complicated, sincere and humorous musical personality. He most certainly has a lot to say and listening to his journey ought to be both enlightening and a lot of fun.
Track Listing: Standard Arrival Route; Flutonette; Sweden; B; Turkey, Texas; Bansull; Ardal One Alpha; Kokarde; Amergris;
Crying in the Rain.