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Arve Henriksen: The Trumpet is My Pen

Nenad Georgievski By

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Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen is one of a handful of creative upstarts, like trumpeters Nils Petter Molvaer or Erik Truffaz, who are embracing electronics and the improvisational side of jazz in their music. Henriksen's music is an otherworldly amalgamation of different and sometimes opposing elements, with imaginative soundscapes built on the tradition that trumpeter Miles Davis began with his electronic explorations of four decades ago. His releases as a leader began with the debut, Sakuteiki (Rune Grammofon, 2001), and also include Chiaroscuro (Rune Grammofon, 2004) and Strjon (Rune Grammofon, 2007), the three recent reissued on vinyl in the lavish, seven-LP Soldification (Rune Grammofon, 2013) box. Solidification also includes Chron, a new recording made exclusively for this box set. One of Henriksen's trademarks is his unorthodox approaches to music-making and improvisation, something most evident in the band Supersilent, an all-improv band which currently includes keyboardist Ståle Storløkken and producer/guitarist Helge Sten, with drummer Jarle Vespestad, leaving the group in 2009.

Supersilent's intelligent and uncompromising music is happening in the now. The band thrives on a "no rehearsals" motto, nor does it create fixed plans or strategies. Rather, the trio explores and convenes without a safety net, creating spontaneous improvisations that have included everything under the sun, from ambient textures to brutal and vicious noise. In 2010, at the renowned Punkt Festival in Kristiansand, Norway, the band was approached by legendary bassist/keyboardist of Led Zeppelin fame, John Paul Jones—an initially non-performing guest of the festival who, having his bass and a laptop on-hand, asked the festival if he could perhaps open with a 15-minute improve for one of the existing acts. Placed in the opening slot to Supersilent's set, it was during soundcheck that he approached the Norwegian trio, asking if he could play with them, and they were more than happy to agree.

Jones' solo career, including production and collaborative projects, has long demonstrated his experimental and avant-garde interests, and following what turned out to be one of Punkt's highlights for that year, Supersilent and Jones reunited for a subsequent tour of England in 2012, which proved to be a perfect match for the challenge-seeking musicians.

Henriksen's sound can also be encountered on one of many projects he took part in, like British avant-songsmith David Sylvian's Nine Horses project, pianist Christian Wallumrod's Ensemble, Food, producers (and Punkt co-Artistic Directors) Jan Bang and Erik Honore's many projects, to name but a few.

A musician trying to redefine the sound of the trumpet—as well as other instruments in his arsenal, including electronics, voice and drums—make good music and have some fun.

All About Jazz: What was the impetus behind the formation of Supersilent?

Arve Henriksen:The beginning of the whole concept for Supersilent began in 1988 or 1989, when Jarle, the drummer, Storløkken, the keyboard player, and I met in Trondheim. We met while we were studying together, and we also met Helge. He was also studying in Trondheim, but he was studying at the art school. We knew each other during our studies at Trondheim, but we never got together to play. Then, in 1997, we met at the festival in Bergen, on the western coast of Norway. The jazz festival is called NattJazz and they invited us, our jazz band, which was a trio called Veslefrekk [Henriksen, Storløkken and Vespestad]. This trio met at the festival and at the same time Rune Kristoffersen, the founder of Rune Grammofon. He wanted us to be the first group to record for his label. The trio was a sort of free-improvised unit with all kinds of music styles on its repertoire.

We wanted to play all kinds of music—contemporary, jazz, standards, ECM-styled kind of sounds, music inspired by Norwegian folk music, and world music. We were inspired by any kind of styles. That was our way of defining free improvised music. We also played some compositions that we made along the way. It was a melting pot for all kinds of things we enjoyed listening to at the time, and when Helge came into the group he brought his experiences with Deathprod. He brought darker, more hardcore sounds. And the combination of these elements—the freer improvised setting that the trio had and Helge—gradually became this free improvised concept. That eventually made Supersilent's sound, if you like. It was based on meeting up to play and to see what would happen, and things happened along the way and we managed to record many different albums. In a way, the records are sort of in the same sound garden.

Arve Henriksen—SolidificationAAJ: How do you approach music-making in this band?

AH: There is a Supersilent concept; it's free- improvised, but we know that from time to time it can sound sort of the same. We never decide what to play when we go onstage. We just have a nice long sound check, gradually tune into something and then we just follow the spontaneous artistry that comes up, trying to follow that river and go with the flow. We don't decide too much. But of course, I remember an occasion in 2002/3, after we had some recordings and gigs, that we came to a point where we felt we got a little bit stuck. There were some gigs that were sort of difficult to make things flow. But we struggled through that and continued for some time with Ståle, and four years ago Jarle left the band. In 2009, we had this situation where Jarle gradually faded out of the idea of the group's concept, as he wanted to play more defined music, like Farmers Market, which he loves. He worked [and continues to work] a lot with Tord Gustavsen, the pianist. He wanted to play compositions, pre- defined music, and I really admire his decision, his choice, at the time, to go into another direction. For me, Ståle and Helge, Supersilent's concept will always be this sort of a meeting point, a laboratory of sounds, a place to meet and do things we want to do as opposite of thinking too much and spending so much time rehearsing songs.

It is a free space for us, where we try to be free and open to check out different things which, for us, are new. Therefore, it's been a very important place for us to be. It's really a place where we get to do something that we didn't get a chance to do in other bands— a free area for us to have fun and play. We were breaking barriers and this approach has continued for all these years. We just want to make music without wanting to make a special style. That is why, after awhile, Helge started playing guitar in the group. In 2007, I began using more drums and now I'm sort of a drummer in that group. It is fun to be 44 years old and to be able to challenge myself by playing the drums in that type of context. It's a place for us to be free, to check out new possibilities. Just go with the flow. These are the basics of Supersilent, the concept where we play music and invite musicians that we feel are connected to that way and that type of thinking.

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