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Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Enfant Terrible

John Kelman By

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While making noise with her debut, Shoot! (Rune Grammofon, 2011), it was with All Them Witches (Rune Grammofon, 2013)—and subsequent touring that took her from her home country of Norway, playing at festivals like the 2013 Molde International Jazz Festival, to a short North American tour this year—that guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen's career really took off. Alongside Pixel, Hedvig Mollestad Trio represents some of the most exciting music from a new generation of Norwegian musicians, though the two groups couldn't be more different. And with "Enfant Terrible" released just prior to its 2014 North American tour, Hedvig Mollestad Trio is already picking up new fans in North America, from a crossover crowd ranging from the most broad-minded of jazz listeners to fans of progressive and instrumental rock.

Previous albums consisted of shorter, more concise tunes that still allowed Thomassen, bassist Ellen Brekken and drummer Ivar Loe Bjørnstad some wiggle room, but remained more predicated on form; "Enfant Terrible" moves towards longer tunes, affording more freedom than ever before. Bjørnstad and Thomassen's "Arigato, Bitch" and Brekken and Thomassen's "La Boule Noire"—which features Thomassen at her most recklessly virtuosic—either closely approach or cross over the eight-minute mark, but the entire recording is the consequence of more sophisticated linguistics rooted in past jazz studies, even if the music this trio makes is an abyss away from the jazz tradition. Brekken may play electric bass on some tunes, but she has also made a surprising case for the double bass as an appropriate instrument for pedal-to-the-metal music that's as much a blend of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin as it is other sources, specifically Terje Rypdal's most balls-out work...but ratcheted to 11.

"Enfant Terrible" is the perfect name for an album loaded with attitude. If Thomassen's arpeggio-driven "Liquid Bridges" breathes with more space—the guitarist eking ethereal textures alongside her signature biting tone, the use of delay to broaden her overall soundstage, and whammy bar-driven, feedback-intense histrionics that push the music into the stratosphere—especially when bolstered by Brekken and Bjørnstad's thundering support—then Brekken's opening, riff-driven "Laughing John" is a sharp contrast, suggesting how Rush might sound if the Canadian power trio possessed a broader vernacular. Most surprising, though, is Bjørnstad's "Rastapopoulos," a two-minute free-for-all with no time, no changes and, for the most part, no melody—though with Thomassen's ability to be simultaneously unfettered and totally focused, some kind of abstruse theme is never far away.

"Enfant Terrible" also represents the trio's inevitable evolution towards a more egalitarian collective, with the writing shared more equally amongst the group. Many bands use the studio as something different than live performance—and there's no doubt that there's better control over sound—but Hedvig Mollestad Trio makes clear, on all its recordings, that it is recorded live in the studio. It's a challenge to make records that capture the sheer energy, monumental power and flat-out attitude of live performance, but as much as Hedvig Mollestad Trio kicks serious butt onstage, it manages to do the same thing in the studio, with "Enfant Terrible" its best representation yet, and the album where the promises of Shoot! and All Them Witches have now been fully realized.

Track Listing: Laughing John; Arigato, Bitch; Liquid Bridges; Rastapopoulos; La Boule Noire; Pity the Children.

Personnel: Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen: guitar; Ellen Brekken: bass; Ivar Loe Bjørnstad: drums.

Title: Enfant Terrible | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Rune Grammofon

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