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Hanna Paulsberg: Home Grown Concept

Ian Patterson By

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I’m very critical about my own stuff. I’m always thinking of the next thing. —Hanna Paulsberg
Norwegian saxophonist Hanna Paulsberg is slowly but surely building a reputation as one of the brightest young jazz musicians to have emerged from Norway in recent years. Her debut at the head of the Hanna Paulsberg Concept, Waltz for Lilli (Ora Fonogram, 2012) introduced a composer/musician with strong melodic and rhythmic sensibilities and made a convincing case for the HPC as a quartet worthy of wider international attention.

Paulsberg's quartet is arguably more inclined towards the American tradition than many of its Norwegian contemporaries but that didn't stop it wining the Young Nordic Jazz Comets competition in Stockholm in 2011. The HPC's second CD, Song for Josia (Ora Fonogram, 2014) largely follows the blueprint established on its critically acclaimed debut, though there's an even greater sense of freedom in the band's dialog and a confidence born of several years gigging together.

The twenty-six-year-old Paulsberg grew up on a farm in Rygge and was introduced to jazz at a very early age, though it was not, as Paulsberg recalls, love at first squonk: "My father was a jazz drummer. As a jazz drummer he was kind of active and he would play a lot of jazz records. I remember when I was very young I hated it. I didn't understand it; I just thought it sounded like random notes." The young Paulsberg was more into Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and in particular The Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Her life took a very significant turn one day as a result of one spin of a record: "I heard Stan Getz," explains Paulsberg. "It was a bossa nova compilation album of Antonio Carlos Jobim's music and I was dumbstruck. I just loved Getz's tone and his melodic sense, the way he creates melodies when he improvises. I wanted to sound exactly like that."

Paulsberg soon picked up the saxophone—she was sixteen at the time—though thankfully, having absorbed many other influences along the way, she has managed to forge quite a personal sound of her own. Getz's music, however, still holds a special place in her affections: "He's always going to be number one for me in some ways, I guess," Paulsberg acknowledges.

Paulsberg's path was pretty much decided. When she finished school she went to the Toneheim Folkhogskole where she delved deeper into her craft, despite the relaxed nature of the school: "It's a one-year thing you do in Norway after you finish school. You don't get a degree there. It's a year where you meet a lot of new people and socialize. I think it's special to Norway," says Paulsberg.

Music—and for Paulsberg jazz in particular—was big on the curriculum: "We had a big-band and some choirs and some smaller jazz bands," she explains. "I had a really good teacher, Anders Lønne Grønseth; he was the first one who told me I had to transcribe things, so I did a lot of that during that year. That was the most important thing I learned."

The next natural step for Paulsberg was to study jazz at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in Trondheim. The methodology in the jazz department was perhaps not typical: "It was very open and you were left to figure things out for yourself in a way," explains Paulsberg. "There weren't too many people telling you what to do. For some people maybe it's not so good but if you're going to be a musician you have to find the way in yourself, so I guess it's a good method."

By her own admission it took Paulsberg a while to find her own way: "I was pretty shy, particularly in my first year and it took some time to find some confidence and to play with people. It takes a long time. You just need to grow up to find out what kind of musician you want to be." Whilst studying, Paulsberg was recruited to the ranks of the internationally renowned Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. With the TJO Paulsberg played at the Molde Jazz Festival 2010 with Motorpsycho and Stale Storlokken, which was then recorded in the studio as the stonking The Death Defying Unicorn (Rune Grammofon, 2012):"I was very happy, excited and terrified," says Paulsberg, recalling the collaboration. "The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra didn't have such a big artistic role; we didn't shape it. Parts were written down and we were just like a very good horn section for a rock band."

Another significant development in Paulsberg's journey also took place at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim when the time came to select a band for her final graduation concert: "For the final graduation concert I felt I should start something that could continue after the exam," says Paulsberg. "I spent a lot of time thinking about who I would pick and I'm very happy about the people I chose because they are really a good match."

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Daughter Of The Sun

Daughter Of The Sun

Odin Records
2018

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Eastern Smiles

Eastern Smiles

Odin Records
2016

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Song For Josia

Song For Josia

Ora Fonogram
2014

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Waltz for Lilli

Waltz for Lilli

Ora Fonogram
2013

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