Ever since Jan Garbarek
put Norwegian jazz on the map, and especially so after the international success of his rigorously ascetic Officium
(ECM) in 1994, the music has acquired a reputation for being not entirely passionless, but emotionally withdrawn. The "Scandinavian sound" which Garbarek championed was conceived in collaboration with ECM label founder Manfred Eicher
as an alternative to the American jazz tradition. It eschewed emotional engagement in favour of cerebralism and was often infused with harmolodic motifs borrowed from Scandinavian folk music. There was nothing wrong with that, indeed there was much to enjoy about it, but as time progressed the template became the new normal. What had once been liberating became constricting.
More recently, with the emergence of a new generation of Norwegian musicians aligned with the electronica movement, Norwegian jazz has, justly or unjustly, acquired a parallel reputation for being obsessed with technology and also for being overly self-referential.
Reed player and composer Anders Lønne Grønseth
is one of four late-2018 albums which suggest all these perceptions are past their sell-by date. The first three albums, released in autumn 2018 on the Odin label, are: Hanna Paulsberg
Concept + Magnus Broo
's spiritual-jazz corker Daughter Of The Sun
, Trondheim Jazz Orchestra
& Ole Morten Vågan
's little-big-band stormer Happy Endlings
's red blooded, post modern Pet Variations
is for the fourth album to shatter the stereotype.
, Grønseth has been best known, certainly beyond Norway, for a series of transcultural / genre-bending projects. These include the stylistically eclectic Mini Macro Ensemble, the Indo-jazz quintet Bhattacharya / Grønseth / Wessel and his classically-focused partnership with pianist David Arthur Skinner
. With the traditionally configured Multiverse quintet Grønseth returns to his expressionistic American-jazz-informed roots, in which he combines lyricism and a sprinkling of atonalism to delicious effect.
Grønseth uses the term "structured freedom" to describe the band's aesthetic. Little is pre-composed; neither tempos, nor grooves, nor form, nor lightof which there is a radiant plentynor shade. Instead, the group maintains a fundamentally in-the-moment improvisational approach to the six originals which comprise the album, on which Grønseth, Powell and pianist Espen Berg
reveal themselves as elegant and mutually compatible soloists.
Beautifully composed, imaginatively performed and luminously recorded, Multiverse
is a winner from start to finish. According to the record label, a second album is to be expected from the group in spring 2019. Bring it on.
Parallelism; Accelerated Expansion; Holographic; Quantum Reality (The Lick); Möbiusstrimmel; Possible Words.
Anders Lønne Grønseth: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Hayden Powell: trumpet; Espen Berg: piano; Audun Ellingsen: bass; Einar Schewing: drums, percussion.