Herskedal's writing was genre spanning and cinematic in scope, recalling at various times big band charts, Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite and post-bop jazz. On "North West Passage," a percussion tattoo by Norbakken suggested native Indian beats, amid the explosive clatter, which brought to mind gunshots or ice cracking. After a pause Dale, one of the most distinctive soloists, fast becoming a fixture on the country's jazz scene and also associate professor in jazz at the Norwegian Academy of Music, took a richly colored turn full of clipped embellishments and rolling lines, heralding a nimbly swinging trio section.
In an imaginative display Knut Ålefjær, the Marinemusikken lead percussionist and probably the member most attuned to Herskedal's conception, introduced the next number with flurries which terminated with something akin to natural decay. Herskedal lead the line on bass trumpet, and the band responded to his call before the piece took in an Oriental tinge. Here and elsewhere Herskedal revealed himself to be a virtuoso brass player.
His unaccompanied tuba introduction to the final number before the encore exposed his chops in fine style. At first he recalled a melodic foghorn, but then utilized deep multiphonic chords which to round off his phrases, to which he then added a higher vocalized layer, creating a less predetermined human element amid the orchestration. A double tongued tuba passage, affirmed by the band with earthy riff and Arabic counter melody segued into a tuba/piano/percussion section which invoked a dream sequence, with jazzy piano accents and runs against a loose backing. The short hymnal encore was a fitting end to a concert which combined disparate facets into a cohesive whole.
As an example of the accessible programming you needed to look no further than Juno, a lively young five piece band which appeared at Herr Nilsen. Made up from four women and one man, they mixed pop, rap and jazz, spiced by sporadic unruly outbursts from Georgia Wartel Collins' bass and Ingvald Vassbø's drums in particular. On tenor saxophone Mona Krogstad largely alternated between the tunes, riffs, coloration, and occasional solos. But with their animated stage presence, it was vocalists Thea Ellingsen Grant and Malin Dahl Ødegård who supplied the focal point. They complemented each other with slightly different styles. But although Ødegård laid down a mean line in rap, while Grant offered more dreamy interpretations, both betrayed their jazz roots with scat solos on different numbers. Collins fashioned a very good, solidly structured bass solo from repeated figures, while Vassbø made the most of his turn in the spotlight, while the two singers played percussion. After being invited back following their debut in the 2017 edition of the Festival's Nordic Showcase, it was no surprise that they enjoyed the support of an enthusiastic audience crowding the small club.
Kristoffer Kompen Quintet
Trombonist Kristoffer Kompen delivered some swinging small group jazz with the help of his Quintet comprising reedman Atle Nymo
, pianist Eyolf Dale (again), bassist Jo Skaansar and drummer Pål Hausken in the small but packed jazz cafe Herr Nilsen. Kompen's territory of choice was a lilting mainstream, which was expansive enough to take in both rocky and bluesy influences, performing material from the group's Sundown
(Kompis, 2017) album. Kompen's smoothly articulated solos, sometimes with slight blaring inflections among the gently gamboling lines, befitted someone who has paid homage to swing era icon Jack Teagarden.
Inventive within the parameters of the tunes, Nymo often pushed the boundaries and was more inclined to depart from the chordal frameworks, playing with time, oscillating between registers, and overblowing. His angular phrases and ululating tremolos often elicited a response from the drummer, and indeed the subtle interactions among the band were one of the joys of this outfit. Dale proved most likely to mix things up, his sparkling piano solos full of little quotes, dislocations and playful emphases.
On "Duke" inspired by Ellington, Nymo's bass clarinet cosseted the leader in a luscious unison, before a luminous piano feature for Dale, which had air of Scottish folk song. Then on the title track from the album with its hymn-like theme, Kompen stretched to his most ebullient work, drawing on the thematic material, but then gradually expanded his tone to a broad vibrato and upped the emotional ante. Nymo's tenor solo stretched things even more and it was delightful to hear how the piano and drums responded, before a final chorus verging on the polyphonic, to round off the set in rousing style.