Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2018: The Community Series at Koncertkirken

Henning Bolte By

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Danish-Norwegian trio of saxophonist Mia Dyberg

The young generation of 'free' musicians can build on their predecessors' achievements. They are now free(d) to switch between different modes of playing and thereby create their own voice, bold jumps and sharp furrows of sound and music. This trio of alto saxophonist Mia Dyberg, bassist Asger Thomsen and drummer Dag Magnusen Narvesen, a Berlin-Copenhagen connection, turned out to be highly energetic, bold and subtle, wild and melodic, far out and far in, visceral with an emergence of deep groove. The trio celebrated the release of its Clean Feed debut Ticket! . It is a trio distinguished by its refined fabrics of sound and its permeating inner pulse. Its music lives by sensible alternating modes, dynamics, and temperatures more than by merely forcing it up linearly. It is open improvisation with emergent moments of strong rides in the groove as well as moments of lyricism in a newly invented and reconquering strategy of dealing with different modes of playing. It was pretty stunning how Thomsen and Narvesen effortlessly and naturally switched between microtonal, atonal and tonal-melodic and riffing modes of playing. When listening with eyes closed a sudden smiling brainwave of "oh, I never heard Paal Nilssen-Love play so lyrically" came up. It seems there is some clear continuity here too.

A crucial and mysterious thing is how listeners can or cannot connect to the energy and flow of the music of open improvisation. Dyberg seems to be conscious about that and helped it a little bit by referring to her heart beat and invited the members of the audience to focus on their own during a piece. Here is a reaction from the audience:

"I loved the tune Mia's Pulse where she took the tempo from her own heartbeat and encouraged us to check our own to compare while they played to see if we had synchronized."

It is interesting to know that Dyberg used the flow of a human voice as point of departure and inspiration for the playing of her trio, namely the speaking voice of US-American writer William S Burroughs (1914-1997) with its inescapable dark sonority, crumbled timbre and conjuring cadence. Dyberg mentions especially pulse awareness, cut up technique as compositional device and "the silver smoke of dreams." The musicians used to listen to readings and radio experiments of Burroughs and started to play right away when Burroughs' voice was cut. A reviewer, Andrew Spragg (The Quietus), describes Burroughs' voice as having "the quality of one speaking beyond the grave, a croak that is authoritative and ravaged in equal measure. It is the voice that creaks out from a dark alley and nests under the skin. It is the voice of a PI trying to catch a final hopeless break, or a radio broadcaster making his last transmission from some strange inter-zone. It is a voice that possesses the listener, absorbs them, never betraying itself through emotion. It is control in its purest form, clinical, paranoid and alien. Hiding here, in plain sight, is a voice from the void." This should be enough encouragement to attend a concert of this trio or/and listen to the album.

Danish-Norwegian quartet Emmeluth's Amoeba

Emeluth's Amoeba came from the same planet of open improvisation but in a different elaboration. Danish saxophonist Signe Emmeluth originates from the Trondheim school—like her fellow musician Mette Rasmussen. Emmeluthis of a different temperament, a great impetuous player pushing up and forward with great force.

Among others she is heading the group Konge with Mats Gustafsson, Ole Morten Vågan and Kresten Osgood. The quartet consisting of Karl Bjorå on guitar, Christian Balvig on piano and Ole Mofjell on drums started with an überhectic passage of headache music to burst after a while into a great explosive groove. But as it is open improvisation it's not first choice to dash through, caged in the same dynamics. Instead the group went into highly energetic hyper rapid intricate rhythm patterning. It initially seemed that through this acceleration things threatened to muddle and fall apart, leaving loosely tumbling particles swirling around. The group took the risk and arose, so to speak, as a phoenix from the ashes. It arrived at a higher level giving leeway to chasing and jumping through marked territories thereby imposing its wildly blossoming protrusions and skeins, always keeping up explosive tension. There is an attitude of fearless exploration and a strong survival urge in the wild cosmos of sound.

Referring to the dancing movements of the polyp naval plant the group themselves describe their music making as uniting "Space and chaos, lyrical yet mysterious melodies and fierce dramaturgy ... in playful playing, where curiosity is a keystone" (for further details see Eyal Hareuveni's informative review).


The concerts of Dré Hocevar, the trio of Mia Dyberg and the quartet of Signe Emmeluth turned out as three quite clearly distinguished approaches and elaborations of open improvisation. All three are strong examples of musicians of the young generation giving shape to their very own voices. They act from a different life experience in a different production situation with different prospects. Old opposites disappear new opposites emerge.
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