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JazzNorway in a Nutshell 2014

Henning Bolte By

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It was a smaller-scale version of Norwegian ambient music that still demonstrated traits of contemporary composed music in its structure and dynamics, next to strange and beautiful music around—to apply an expression of John Lurie. Ellerhusen Holm, Arntzen and Grydeland performed at the Art House Kabuso and reaffirmed their class, capacity and the importance of their productive role on the Norwegian scene, playing a quite steely piece of committed ambient music with spontaneous compositional qualities. Grydeland's pedal steel playing gave the music a strong floating characteristic which was shaped and underpinned by Holm's clarinet and Arntzen's great interconnecting and textural bass playing.

It was just a few steps to Storeteigen, a collection of old wooden houses at the shore of the fjord, a museum with a couple of old workshops from former furniture producers. This was the place for some music on the Hardánger fiddle, stories about singing and dancing in schools a few decades ago and an open air meal with local food from a local kitchen. It was in one of the old workplaces that Håkon Kornstad presented some of his music.

During the past fifteen years, Kornstad has acquired his very own special place in the Norwegian scene between different directions: the musicians of the ECM school and the free musicians of groups like the Norwegian/Swedish power quintet Atomic. Starting up with the successful group Wibutee, he also had a trio with drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and bassist Mats Eilertsen and worked in a duo with pianist Håvard Wiik as well as bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and the great singer Sidsel Endresen. He was one of the first saxophonists to sample himself using a rather old and limited memory sampling device, resulting in remarkable solo albums like Dwell Time (Jazzland, 2009) on which he also featured his flutonette work, a clarinet mouth piece transposed onto a flute body.

In a five year-old interview related to Dwell Time Kornstad revealed that he had developed an interested in opera right before, during a stay in New York City. It sounded quite serious, but it could not be imagined then that five years later he would sing in a Mozart opera at the Oslo Opera House. It was also inconceivable he would succeed in developing a convincing, fully integrated program with his saxophone playing and opera singing to perform in prominent jazz venues during that period—witness his show the night before at Nattjazz. In a former furniture workshop at Storeteigen, Kornstad gave an enjoyable as well as instructive presentation of all these facets of his work.

The rural environment of the fjord apparently invited more to his singing than the urban environment where it was presented by professional musicians. Songs from various European areas, central, south, east, west—and from near and far—were heard during the bus ride back. Also the common singing of a uniting repertoire filled the air, a good Nutshell tradition reverberating.

Fløyen Mountain

The next morning it was up to Floyen or Fløyfjellet, the highest of the seven mountains (425 m, 1394 ft) surrounding the Bergen bay, by a funicular system originating in 1918. These days, many Bergenites run up and down the mountain one or more times a week for fitness and health reasons.

Up on the mountain participants not only had an impressive view on the bay, mountains and fjords, but also—again—an exquisite meal and two top-notch performances. The first one was by well-known trumpeter, drummer and vocalist Arve Henriksen, who came in from Hamburg—the old Hanseatic connection—where he had performed the previous night with Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazur's Cave Spirit, together with guitarist Eivind Aarset and live sampler Jan Bang at the ELBJazz festival. Henriksen performed with Bergen resident and percussionist Terje Isungset, best known for his ice music enterprises. Their completely improvised performance went for making space and sonic beauty interact in intriguing ways, employing sounds of various trumpets, flutes, stones, skins, wood, metal, glass and human voice.

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