32-year-old Norwegian saxophonist Håkon Kornstad continues to skirt the competing modern Scandinavian jazz aesthetics of Jan Garbarek and Mats Gustafsson. In 2008 he participated in the stunning Elise (Compuctio, 2008), a delicate acoustic duo exploration with bassist and countryman Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. Kornstad's Dwell Time is, in many ways, a companion piece to that disc in its sheer beauty and deliberateness. But where that album existed in the ether of resonating wood and metal, Dwell Time is unaccompanied, using live electronics to create an equally verdant landscape.
Jazz is usually straightforward enough that the live performance does not really do much to illuminate process. But Kornstad's CD release concert, in November 2009 at Brooklyn's Monkeytown, raised one's appreciation of the recorded document. Playing his customary tenor and flutonette (a flute augmented with a clarinet mouthpiece) as well as straight flute, Kornstad would play melodic lines into a looping module and then layer further lines on top, playing with as many as four doppelgangers. This is not a unique approach but Kornstad's results are certainly a welcome change from the often stultifying applications of electronics within an improvised music context. For that, listeners can thank Kornstad's obvious regard for euphony. Though he has a command of extended techniques, he uses them sparingly or, at least, conservatively, far more a Monet than a Pollack.
The album is, quite simply, mesmerizing. A shallow listen partakes of its dreamy quality. Deeper excavation uncovers complexity almost Gregorian chant-like in scope. That tradition of early polyphonic music, especially given that the music was recorded in the reverberating confines of an Oslo church, is just as important as that of the modern solo jazz saxophone exposition as spearheaded by Roscoe Mitchell and Evan Parker. Seeing Kornstad achieve almost the same level of rapture live reinforced the difficulty of an undertaking like Dwell Time. To concern oneself with the act of playing, manipulation of electronic elements, reaction to multiple ideas, all in real time is an accomplishment of staggering proportions.
Still One; Oslo; Mongrel; Noir; En Attendant Le Soleil; Klaff; Wipeout; Streamer.
Håkon Kornstad: tenor and bass saxophones, flute, flutonette, live electronics.