All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Dag Arnesen: Norwegian Song

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
With the upsurge of jazz artists from around the world comes the realization that, with a melting-pot aesthetic defining jazz across the broadest possible spectrum, source material is expanding far beyond the traditional confines of blues, jazz standards and The Great American Songbook. It may be increasingly difficult to define what jazz is, but the litmus test of authenticity can almost always be felt on an instinctive level. Norwegian pianist Dag Arnesen's source may be his culture's traditional songs, but there's no question that Norwegian Song is a jazz record, by any definition.

Like fellow Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen, whose own extrapolation of the music of Norway into a more improvised setting on Sagn (ECM, 1991) strayed far from many of the stylistic markers that, for some, define jazz, Arnesen's trio takes its fair share of risks. But it's still as mainstream a jazz recording as anything released by artists like Brad Mehldau and Keith Jarrett (in Standards Trio mode). Unlike their overt virtuosity, however, Arnesen shares more in common with the spare economy of another Norwegian pianist, Tord Gustavsen, who thus far has made a career out of exploring the nooks and crannies of what only appears, on the surface, to be a limited musical space on albums including Being There (ECM, 2007).

Arnesen and his trio—bassist Terje Gewelt and drummer Pal Thowsen—don't exactly rip it up on this collection of eleven traditional Norwegian folk songs and music by composer Edvard Grieg. They do swing harder than expected on "Eg ser deg utr gluggjin (I See Your Shadow Yonder)" though—a modal tune that, in its innocent melody, suggests how John Coltrane's classic quartet from the 1960s might have sounded with more space and less of the legendary saxophonist's "sheets of sound." The beauty of Grieg's "Ved Rondane (By the Rondane Mountains)" remains intact as Arnesen's trio transforms it into a graceful ballad, focusing on the unadorned elegance of a simple melody and its all-important essence, even when it's time to for greater exploration.

Driven by Thowsen's hand percussion and featuring a warm solo from Gewelt—whose ability to make the right choices in a modest context echoes Charlie Haden's similar ability to draw deeper meaning out of deceptively simple phrases—Arnesen builds a solo profound in its harmonic richness while never drawing undue attention to itself. The song's the thing, and Arnesen, Gewelt and Thowsen are always in service of it, even on the Latinesque "Margit Hjukse," one of the most up-tempo tunes on Norwegian Song that, despite its short duration, gives everyone including Thowsen a brief chance to stretch more vociferously.

Speaking with the deep language and rhythmic diversity of jazz Arnesen proves, with Norwegian Song, that it is truly possible to find valuable source material in any corner. A jazz album by any definition, it possesses a warmth that will render moot any belief that Norwegian jazz is inherently defined by icy cool and barren landscapes.

Track Listing: Ved Rondane (By the Rondane Mountains); Ola, Ola, min eigen unge (Oh, Ole, Ole, I Loved You Dearly); Margit Hjukse; Arietta; Eg ser deg ut før gluggjin (I See Your Shadow Yonder); Aagots fjeldsang (Aagot's Mountain Song); Håvar Hedde; Gjendines bådnlåt (Gjendine's Lullaby); Den norske dalevise (Norwegian Valley Song); Falkvor Lomansson; Sæterjentens søndog (The Chalet Girl's Sunday).

Personnel: Dag Arnesen: piano; Terje Gewelt: bass; Pål Thowsen: drums, percussion.

Title: Norwegian Song | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Resonant Music


comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Norwegian Song 2

Norwegian Song 2

Resonant Music

Norwegian Song

Norwegian Song

Resonant Music


Time Enough

Ambolthue Records



Ambolthue Records


Ny Bris

Ambolthue Records


Related Articles

Read Begin the Agora CD/LP/Track Review
Begin the Agora
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 17, 2018
Read Time Like This CD/LP/Track Review
Time Like This
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 17, 2018
Read Under One Moon CD/LP/Track Review
Under One Moon
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: October 17, 2018
Read Doubles, Vol. 1 CD/LP/Track Review
Doubles, Vol. 1
by Jim Trageser
Published: October 17, 2018
Read Outsidethebox CD/LP/Track Review
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 16, 2018
Read There Are Stars In Brooklyn CD/LP/Track Review
There Are Stars In Brooklyn
by James Fleming
Published: October 16, 2018
Read "Jazz Tango" CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Tango
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 18, 2018
Read "Unbroken" CD/LP/Track Review Unbroken
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 30, 2018
Read "with whom you can be who you are" CD/LP/Track Review with whom you can be who you are
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 21, 2018
Read "Rome" CD/LP/Track Review Rome
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 15, 2017
Read "Beauty & Mystery" CD/LP/Track Review Beauty & Mystery
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: February 16, 2018
Read "Songs from the Alan Lomax Collection" CD/LP/Track Review Songs from the Alan Lomax Collection
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 27, 2018