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Molde International Jazz Festival 2018

Luca Vitali By

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A million kroner went instead to the young pianist Alf Hulbækmo (the twenty-six year-old brother of a young star, drummer Hans Hulbækmo) for "JazZstipendiat," a scholarship that will allow him to collaborate for a year with members of his choice from the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. The work he composes with them will premier at next year's festival.

Let's move on, though, to the music of the second weekend:

Paal Nilssen's Love XL Unit, Ethiobraz Edition

Thigs started with a bang with the seismic Paal Nilssen-Love, who was there with his Large Unit line-up in an XL format. It's a genuine big band that over the years has come into contact with other lands and cultures and has tried to embrace its strongest influences, primarily from Ethiopia and Brazil. The thirteen core members were thus joined by another ten for a world first—an XL version with an Ethiopian cast: Melaku Belay and Zenash Tsegaye (dance), Nardos Tesfaye (voice), Fasika Hailu (krahr), Habetamu Yeshambel (masingo), Mesay Abebaye (kobero), and others who were not announced...

The voice of Nardos Tesfaye got the ball rolling and gradually other members made their entry into a performance that was a mix of traditional, free and Ethiojazz dance and song. Quite unusual for Large Unit, I would venture to say: since I'm not familiar with the human and geographical background of the new members, it's difficult to give it a clear and understandable interpretation, but it was certainly a very striking and moving performance, and the different cultural layers were well integrated. Then, all of a sudden, a Brazilian musician appeared in the stands and launched into a berimbau solo as he made his way to the stage, accompanied by a few other Brazilian musicians. The ethnic register thus expanded and shifted to South America. And so it was that we were treated to a sort of ethnic/free jazz counterpoint in which the Ethiopian dance star Melaku Belay (Fendika band) took center stage for a long time, performing along with Large Unit or taking turns with it and the Brazilian trio, until the final guest of the evening arrived: the disrupter Terrie "Ex," whose forays served to mix things up even more.

Maria Schneider -Trondheimsolistene with Eir Inderhaug

Maria Schneider concluded her residency with one of the best concerts at the festival, aided in part by the location at the Molde Cathedral. It included two long suites of songs, both of which appear on the 2013 album Winter Morning Walks , composed for the soprano Dawn Upshaw and straddling the genres of jazz, contemporary classical music and Broadway musicals. The Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories, based on English translations of the Brazilian poet's texts, started things off with a melodramatically flavored series. The Trondheimsolistene string ensemble is one of the most prestigious and accomplished in Norway, and the voice of soprano Eir Inderhaug also enjoys an excellent reputation: everything was indeed incredibly powerful and vivid; there were no hiccups and the overall impression was one of naturalness. It's no wonder that they decided to skip the last round of rehearsals. For this first suite, the only jazz musician was the pianist Olga Konkova, a Russian based in Oslo. For the second suite the ensemble was limited to the strings, accompanied by the jazz soloist Per Mathisen on double bass and Atle Nymo on saxophone. They performed the nine pieces from Winter Morning Walks , based on texts by Ted Kooser. The arrangements of both suites are beautiful and sophisticated; it was impeccably executed, exciting music. It was almost midnight and it was still light out in Molde.

Motorpsycho

This 58th Festival could not have ended better! Motorpsycho is a cult (rock) band in Norway that has always occupied a special place on the national jazz scene. They have also ensured the success of the historic club Blå in Oslo, thanks to collaborations with Jaga Jazzist, Supersilent, and in recent years, the guitarist Snah, with the band Bol&Snah. On this occasion the trio stripped down the wall of speakers and took on the challenge of playing with two of the most representative figures on today's scene in Trondheim: the violinist Ola Kvernberg and the multi-instrumentalist Kristoffer Lowe (formerly with Pelbo).

The concert kicked off with a version of the hit "Un Chien," a mix between ambient and industrial music, eventually leading into a veritable anthem to rock that lasted (the first piece alone) almost forty-five minutes. The repertoire was 100% Motorpsycho, with mixes of timbres intersecting richly with mellotron, violin, voices, and tuba from the two guests. The room was overflowing, and the doors were open: the public came and went freely; it felt like the festival's wrap-up party.

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