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Molde International Jazz Festival 2013

John Kelman By

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Moran's multimedia performance was a mix of music, spoken word, old recordings, autobiographical information and, at its core, the pianist's clear love of Monk—the man and the musician. "If there was a point after being born that changed my life," his voice spoke over the sound system, "it was hearing Monk." And as Moran moved through the set, taking Monk's music into the 21st century with a kind of freedom that Monk never envisaged, it became obvious just how significant a touchstone the legendary pianist/composer has been for the younger pianist.



A particularly powerful moment occurred when Waits, taking a mid-set solo, punctuated the story of Monk's encounter with police, his snare drum shots matching the sharp cracks of the pianist's hands being beaten. But, as the musicians who had left the stage for this segment (including Moran) returned to the stage, rather than taking their places behind their instruments, they sat on the floor of the stage, watching the video screen as a series of quotes passed by that gave the impression of being at a Monk rehearsal.

As the show neared its end, the phrase "In My Mind" began to repeat, as onstage cameras began to mesh the live performance with the pre-recorded video; just as it seemed the concert was over, however, the group began to play "Crepuscule with Nellie," bringing the full house at Bjørnsenhuset to its feet, clapping its hands and, as the band left the stage (the horn players still with their instruments, Herskedal switching to euphonium), walking past the front row, a line was formed, following Moran and his group out into the Bjørnsenhuset lobby, where the music continued for a good 10 minutes before finally coming to an end.

It was a powerful first performance that set the tone for the whole week, as Moran made clear, in the most immediate way possible that for him, there is no dividing line when it comes to music. The tradition at the core of Bandwagon may be thousands of miles away from the Norwegian horn section that augmented it, but on this night, it was clear that this music was a part of everyone's past.

Having last visited Molde in 2010, it was great to see that what was then a hole in the ground with a lot of construction equipment was now the town's beautiful new Plassen, with two performance spaces, a library, administrative offices and more. The larger of the two rooms at Plassen, the Teatret Vårt Konsert, was especially impressive in the way that the rows of seating could be easily (and automatically) pulled back against the rear wall to turn the venue into a standing-room space, with an overhead balcony providing seating for, perhaps, another 25-30 people (seated).

It was also great to see just how far Albatrosh—the duo with pianist Eyolf Dale and tenor saxophonist André Roligheten—has come since first encountering them as part of a JazzNorway in a Nutshell showcase in Rosendahl, when the two young players were still in school and yet to record their first album, Seagull Island (Inner Ear, 2009). While Albatrosh's latest, Yonkers (Rune Grammofon, 2012), was a return to the duo format of its debut, Mystery Orchestra with Grenager and Talfjord (Inner Ear, 2010) provided a hint of what was to come when the duo collaborated with Trondheim Jazz Orchestra for its 2013 Molde Jazz Festival performance.



Mystery Orchestra cellist Lene Grenager and hornist Holde Sofie Talfjord—one-half of the improvising unit Spunk, along with sonic explorer/vocalist Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje and woodwind multi-instrumentalist Kristin Andersen—were also on-hand for the Molde performance, alongside TJO regulars including trumpeters Eivind Lønning (back after a cross- Canada festival tour with pianist Christian Wallumrød's Ensemble) and Hayden Powell, saxophonists Sissel Vera Pettersen and Eirik Hegdal, clarinetist Morten Barrikmo, Jaga Jazzist trombonist Erik Johannessen, PELbO tubaist Kristoffer Lo, violinist Ola Kvernberg (in his first of three appearances this week), in-demand bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Tor Haugerud. On hand, as well, was Andreas Paleologos, who created in-the-moment drawings on a projection screen behind the group.

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