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Molde International Jazz Festival 2013

John Kelman By

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It's no surprise that, after seeing the group a week ago in Munich, there's some interest from ECM Records' Manfred Eicher. Whether or not anything will come of it is yet to be determined, but if Obara International's next record comes out on the lauded, internationally renowned label, it will only mean good things for the group—and for fans of music around the world who value the kind of music that comes from four musicians communicating on such a profoundly deep level.

July 20: Maria Kannegaard Ensemble / Hedvig Mollestad Trio

One of the most noticeable differences between the last visit to Molde in 2010 and the current year was the density of programming. In 2010, it seemed as though there was so much from which to choose, and so much running concurrently, that shows had to be only partly seen, or skipped entirely. 2013's lighter schedule meant the ability to see more, but still—as with any festival taking place over as short a period as six days— there's always the risk of overload, making it better to stick to two or three shows per day.



The festival's final day had another eagerly anticipated show of the 2013 edition—pianist Maria Kannegaard's new ensemble—and a chance to close out the festival, before another characteristically outrageous early morning pickup, with guitarist Hedvig Mollestad, whose second release on Rune Grammofon, 2013's All of Them Witches, was another surprising (in the best possible way) release from a label that's become one of the country's best-known and most respected on an international basis. That both Kannegaard and Mollestad are women only means that there's proof positive that the imbalance between genders in the world of jazz is slowly correcting itself, and that it should have no bearing on how a group or artist is described or assessed.

Kannegaard has been around longer, with groups like Maryland and the trio that, featuring bassist Ole Morten Vågan and drummer Thomas Stronen, formed the core of her new sextet, which also included (in yet another Molde appearance) violinist Ola Kvernberg, keyboardist Ståle Storløkken (another multi-show performer) and, making his first appearance at the 2013 edition, trumpeter/vocalist/percussionist Per Jorgensen—whose inimitable approach, not just to his instruments, but to music, has rendered him not only an invaluable member of Jon Balke's Magnetic North Orchestra and Jøkleba!, but to any constellation in which he's a part.

Kannegaard's trio music—last heard on 2008's Camel Walk (Jazzland)—was (and is) a more idiosyncratic affair; the music performed by this ensemble, while reflecting some of the repetitive elements that make up Kannegaard's trio music—as well as including some percussive elements and knottier constructs—nevertheless represents some of the most purely melodic music of the Swedish-born/Norwegian-resident pianist's career.

Some music is meant to be heard; other music is meant to be felt. Some music requires a conscious brain; other music is more transportive in nature, music that transcends conscious thought and goes on a journey that, if successful, takes its audience along for the ride. Dissecting Kannegaard's music would almost take away from its successful sojourn, one driven by both the music the pianist has written and the way that it was performed by a group clearly selected for its individual skills.

Much has already been written about Kvernberg's two other Molde performances; suffice to say that here, in a thoroughly different context, his ability to mold himself to the demands of the music remained intact, turning from the high energy of Bushman's Revenge and the more abstruse nature of the Albatrosh/Trondheim Jazz Orchestra to a more decidedly lyrical bent, but one that also took advantage of the violinist's textural strengths as well. Vågan's role was less aggressive here, and if his work with Obara International was the epitome of power and drive, here it was not so different, only executed with greater elegance and gentility. Storløkken's role here was more textural as well, with no Hammond to be found, only racks of synthesizers that he used to both create sonic soundscapes and mirror Kannegaard's own parts, which leveraged both thematic constructs and repetition that seemed informed by minimalism, but more indirectly so.,

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