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Molde Jazz: Day 6, July 18, 2009

John Kelman By

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Break of Day in Molde / Crimetime Orchestra / Jaga Jazzist / Arve Henriksen Closing Concert
Molde Jazz
Molde, Norway
July 18, 2009


It's almost impossible to believe, that after the late nights of Molde Jazz, hundreds of people would make the trek halfway up the hill towards where singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen performed the previous evening, to an outdoor amphitheater on the last day of the festival, for an early morning performance by trumpeter and artist in residence Arve Henriksen, keyboardist and Norwegian icon Jon Balke, percussionist Terje Isungset, cellist Svante Henryson and dancer Therese Skauge. But by the time the "Break of Day in Molde" concert began at 7:00 AM—long after the sun had begun to rise in the sky hours earlier after a true night of only a couple hours—the stands were full, with a waking audience provided with free coffee and juices, courtesy of Molde Jazz.

Molde Jazz Festival



Only in Norway would an idea such as this even be considered, let alone be this well attended. Maybe it's the long days—even at night it's never quite as dark as it is at other times of the year—that discourage sleep. Or perhaps it's a certain intrepid personality that places culture, for a brief time at least, over such basic necessities as sleep. But either way, there were nearly a thousand people waiting for Henriksen to appear with this one time-only group.

Chapter Index

  1. Break of Day in Molde: Arve Henriksen
  2. Crimetime Orchestra
  3. Jaga Jazzist
  4. Arve Henriksen Closing Concert
  5. Festival Wrap-Up



Break of Day in Molde: Arve Henriksen



Henriksen's week at Molde Jazz as artist in residence has been a remarkable consolidation of past works and a view into the future of an artist who never seems to stand still. With boundless energy, he's involved in seemingly countless projects, but for this performance he appeared to turn the musical direction over to Balke, with an hour-long set of music that sounded like a miniature version of Balke's longstanding Magnetic North Orchestra, responsible for a series of albums including Diverted Travels (ECM, 2004). Without knowing who wrote the music, Balke's presence—as an influential musician whose reach extends beyond his own music, and whose Siwan (2009) is an ECM masterpiece as important, if not more so, as Jan Garbarek's 1994 collaboration with The Hilliard Ensemble, Officium—was felt in the music; his curious and distinctive harmonic and rhythmic approach a definer for the entire performance.

Molde Jazz Festival / Arve HenriksenBeginning with music that was as gentle as the warmth of the sun as it continued to rise, Henriksen's liquid tone was beyond lyrical, creating music that couldn't have been more appropriate to the outdoor context where it was being made. There were no sharp surfaces, only a kind of impressionism that created a soft cushion for Skauge to dance to. Skauge's movements were elegantly interpretive, but things went both ways; as much as she responded to the music around her, the musicians took cues from her movements as well.



It was a terrific opportunity to hear the remarkable Henryson in a more open environment. His work with singer Kristin Asbjørnsen was perfectly fitting, but he had to function within the songwriter's more structured context. Here, despite no shortage of form, freedom was also a part of the picture, allowing the cellist to be more intimately interactive with the rest of his band mates. His rapport with Henriksen was especially noticeable, as the two worked off each other, most often in the subtlest of ways.



Isungset has been on the Norwegian scene for a number of years, working largely in improvised contexts but is, perhaps, best known for his ice concerts and CDs, where the percussionist literally builds instruments out of ice and collaborates with artists including Henriksen, singer Sidsel Endresen, harpist Iro Haarla and trumpeter Per Jørgensen, to create music that sounds not quite of this world. Here, however, he used more conventional percussion, though his approach was anything but. Using rocks—large, rounded ones and flate, slate-like slabs—he demonstrated that music truly can be found anywhere, as his stone-on-stone often created notes that were in perfect harmony with the music around him.



Playing keyboards, but also utilizing, in addition to Henriksen, some of the gongs strung along the back of the stage—especially a particularly large one that he struck with the palm of his hand to create a deep bass sound that was absolutely huge—Balke created layers of soft electric piano washes and added some sound samples to the mix. The music may have seemed amorphous at times, but equally it found its way to groove too, especially towards the end of the show, when Henryson began working with Isungset to create a potent rhythm, over which Henriksen first sang, then turned comic in a poke at early morning shows that encourage their audience to get up, stretch and do other physical activities—and he managed to get the hundreds of people at the Reknesparken amphitheater to do just that, amidst plenty of laughter.

Molde Jazz Festival / Arve Henriksen l:r: Jon Balke, Therese Skauge, Svante Henryson, Arve Henriksen, Terje Isungset



The music gradually became more energetic to coincide with the emergence of the day and the waking audience; but it was most remarkable for its putting to music an occurrence in nature that most take for granted. A short encore was an appropriate end to the performance, a singable melody over a gentle foundation that left the audience feeling joyous and optimistic about the day ahead. If only they could bottle that and use it instead of alarm clocks to wake people up.


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