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Molde International Jazz Festival 2018

Luca Vitali By

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Jan Erik Vold & Arild Andersen

A collaboration between two greats from Norway's first golden age of jazz (early 1970s) that still maintains its freshness today. As a vocal reciter Vold is particularly gifted in musical phrasing, while Andersen, tweaking the sampling techniques he used in the album Electra, reinterprets Duke Ellington and revisits parts of his most recent repertoire in perfect harmony with the recitation. The texts were often funny and in Norwegian, prompting uproarious laughter from the audience in a room that was literally crammed.

The big Yes!

A completely new band put together by one of Norway's most interesting young musicians: Christian Meaas Svendsen (double bass). He was accompanied by the Swedish saxophonist Anna Högberg, the Danish trombonist Maria Bertel and the Norwegian noise drummer Ole Mofjell. They performed a long suite inspired by the sonorities of the marine world: free-style forays projected us into the midst of a storm on the open sea, between whale songs and the calls of sea elephants and other marine animals. Svendsen, as always, displayed great technique and experimentation in exploring his instrument, at times accompanying his playing with a guttural voice. But the most striking performer was Maria Bertel, who between pedals and trombone plunged into the depths with unusual and moving low registers: hers was definitely the voice of the whale. Mofjell was a tireless hammer while Högberg was the only one to soar on the upper registers: the whistling of the wind perhaps or a flock of frightened birds. Here and there, a few classic, codified elements of radical improvisation came through. On the whole, a beautiful, intense performance sparked with interest and freshness. There were a lot of young people in the Storyville audience.

Trondheim Voices: Folklore

Nine highly talented vocalists (Sissel Vera Pettersen , Anita Kaasbøll, Tone Åse, Kari Eskild Havenstrøm, Natali Abrahamsen Garner, Siri Gjære, Heidi Skjerve, Torunn Sævik, Ingrid Lode) wearing priestly robes performed compositions by Ståle Storløkken and Helge Sten (both from Supersilent) with powerful and soul-stirring results, thanks also to the wizard of sound Asle Karstad and fantastic lights of Ingrid Skanke Høsøien. A quiet start with two pieces that were a little slow (the writing by Ståle Storløkken uses voices like a church organ) and perhaps too long, seeing as a few people in the audience gave up. As the performance continued, though, it gained energy and became more absorbing, forceful and engaging. Playing on constant nuances and flashes between whispered Gregorian chant and the use of noise drones, chimes and little else, and sustained by truly remarkable technique, it captured the audience's attention: all ears were strained to catch every breath and subtlety. The ensemble has just released the album Rooms and Rituals (Grappa Records) but this new project is totally different from everything else they've done until now: a great première!

Cross Currents Trio. Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain, Chris Potter

A performance by three great professionals planned down to the finest details. These are three virtuosos on their respective instruments and the trio would seem to be a "total novelty." In actuality, it is the fruit of the previous project called Crosscurrents, expanded by the voice of Shankar Mahadevan and other Indian musicians. Hussain is undoubtedly a talent: he has been on the international jazz scene for many years and knows how to fill the stage with fireworks. In the second part of the concert, he took the mike in homage first to India and to his teachers, with "Suvarna," and then to the guitarist John McLaughlin, his partner in the Shakti project of the early 1970s, with "Jbhai" (Brother John). The trio gave ample space to improvisation but was at the same time controlled (too controlled) and showed admirable interplay. Still, however well done, the whole thing seemed constructed or artificial at times, ready for a recording session in the studio.

Mathias Eick Quintet

Mathias Eick is all smiles and very glamorous, and his music is agreeable and fun to listen to. He has a tight band of excellent musicians. His mastery of his instrument is remarkable, as is his ability to elaborate on the melody . . . the result, however, is just too predictable and never manages to go beyond mere "pleasantness." The audience very much appreciated the set—taken largely from his last album Ravensburg (ECM Records, 2018) and inspired by his grandmother's German origins—also including a few more dated hits like "Oslo" ( Skala , ECM Records, 2011) and "At Sea" ( Midwest, ECM Records, 2015).

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