Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Punkt 07 - Kristiansand, Norway - Day Two, August 30, 2007

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

As 5:00 PM approached, anticipation of the first official day for Punkt 07 continued to grow. The Agder Theater is a beautiful venue, with a large bar area for meeting up with artists and other media folks from as far away as Japan and China. Like the increasingly cosmopolitan makeup of the musicians who have come to perform at Punkt, there's a large contingent of writers to ensure that the word about Punkt continues to spread.

Punkt Festival 07

Yet another unique aspect of Punkt is how, while the audience is in the Alpha Room for the live remixes, it not only manages to set up the equipment for the next artist in the 500-seat theatre but to create new set designs as well. With all the technology used by most of Punkt's artist roster, the instrument setup alone can be a complex logistical challenge. But adding complete set redesigns in the space of less than an hour—ranging from the spare, almost spartan, to the remarkably detailed, and with completely different lighting—would be an impossible feat for most festivals. Not for Punkt. Chapter Index
  1. Huntsville
  2. Huntsville Live Remix: Sweet Billy Pilgrim
  3. Joanna MacGregor and Jan Bang / Michiyo Yagi
  4. Quercus: June Tabor / Iain Ballamy / Hul Warren
  5. Quercus Live Remix: J. Peter Schwalm / Daniel Kluge / Eivind Aarset
  6. Hans Appelquist
  7. Hans Appelquist Live Remix: Nils Petter Molvær / Ryan Francesconi


Huntsville's debut, For the Middle Class (Rune Grammfon, 2006), was another example of how Norwegian artists continue to find new ways to redefine the nexus of improvisation, technology and tradition. A trio featuring bassist Tony Kluften (who also works with a sampler), percussionist Ingar Zach (who, likewise, does sampling—some of it in real time), and Ivar Grydeland, who plays electric and acoustic guitars, pedal steel guitar and banjo (with a wide array of processing effects and looping), Huntsville manages to combine organic sounds with sometimes densely harsh electronics, to create a kind of futuristic "roots" music.

The trio's 45-minute set was a logical extension of For the Middle Class, with many of the same elements and, at times, direct reference to pieces including "Add a Key of Humanity" and the propulsive and tabla sample-driven "The Appearance of a Wise Child." But while some of the textures were familiar, Huntsville's almost recombinant integration of sampled and looped motifs with more abstract textures was fresh and exciting—likely, in many cases, as much of a surprise for the group as it was for the audience.

Punkt Festival 07 / Huntsville

Grydeland was particularly impressive alternating between his various string instruments, setting up a simple and lyrical loop on pedal steel before moving to electric guitar to create additional melodic fragments as well as more jagged and distorted attacks to provide an intense backwash of sound. Zach was equally potent, creating rapid percussion samples before moving to brushes on his eclectic drum set. While largely a textural player, he did create forward motion at times, playing push-and-pull with both Grydeland and Kluften, who created his own sound world by using his bow in unconventional ways.

That acoustic instruments can be combined with forward-thinking technology, where folkloric elements can live together with more densely-layered electronics, is what gives Huntsville's approach to improvisation its distinction. As strong, if not stronger, in performance as on record, Huntsville hopefully has a new disc in the works representative of the trio's uniqueness.

Huntsville Live Remix: Sweet Billy Pilgrim

Preceding the group's performance on August 31, British group Sweet Billy Pilgrim's guitarist/vocalist, Tim Elsenburg, reduced the harsher elements of Huntsville's performance into near ambient space. Layering a simple, melancholy set of changes over processed slices of Huntsville's work—in particular Grydeland's looped pedal steel guitar—Elsenburg demonstrated how song can be created in real time, and how differently one can view and be inspired by a single musical source.

Adding an almost spiritual vocal, Elsenburg may have begun more ethereally, but he did migrate to more propulsive rhythm by introducing that kinetic aspect of Huntsville's performance, and augmenting it with his own looped figures. Elsenburg would stray into different territories but always find his way back to his original thematic premise.

As the thirty-minute remix drew to a close, Elsenburg referenced King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, creating long, sustained melodies that he then looped and layered but kept buried in the overall mix. As the rest of the music dissolved, leaving only these sustaining loops, Elsenburg took his bow and closed the remix on an atmospheric note. His remix may not have been as eminently adventurous as Huntsville's, but it ended up being a gentle coda that had its own appeal.

Joanna MacGregor and Jan Bang / Michiyo Yagi

For the second theatre show of the day, Punkt brought together two musical contexts that, on the surface, might seem incongruous but, when experienced together, made perfect musical sense.

British pianist Joanna MacGregor's performance with live sampler/Punkt co-founder Jan Bang demonstrated how barriers between musical styles continue to be dissolved. While classically trained, and with a discography and touring schedule that has seen her collaborating with orchestras around the world, MacGregor has developed a personal language for solo performance that brings in elements of jazz harmony and a greater experimental aesthetic for shaping her music. Bang is the perfect collaborator, with a keenly intuitive sense of what should be sampled, feeding back motifs like a repetitive trill to MacGregor, who then responded with her own, dramatically evolving ideas. Punkt Festival 07 / Joanna MacGregor

MacGregor and Bang's 25-minute set began sparingly, but built with a sense of inevitability as the two interacted. MacGregor may be an undeniably virtuosic pianist with a broad set of musical references, but for her it's clearly always about the music. She demonstrated a remarkable sense of invention that ranged from densely clustered blocks of sound to rapidly repetitive single notes and frequent explorations inside the body of the piano. From fragile delicacy to Cecil Taylor-like block attacks, MacGregor is one of an increasing number of musicians who not only span the arbitrary, and frequently artificial, divide between classical and improvised music, but bring the two together, simply sonic shades of a broad musical continuum.

Less about change and melody (though there were appearances of both throughout), and more about mood, dynamics, texture and long-form narrative, MacGregor and Bang demonstrated another of Punkt's unique characteristics: first encounters. The duo created music without any kind of safety net, and it's the ability to allow festival audiences a window into these laboratory-like experiments that keeps Punkt's program exciting and diverse, show-to-show and year-to-year.

After a brief intermission, Japanese koto player Michiyo Yagi took to the stage for a brief set that brought ancient tradition into the 21st century. Yagi plays the koto, an ancient Japanese multi-stringed instrument originally derived from the zither. While it's normally heard in traditional music that is largely lyrical and definitively consonant, Yagi has expanded the instrument's potential with prepared techniques and an attack that can, at times, be jaggedly visceral.

Yagi may well be the only free-improvising koto player in the world, collaborating fearlessly with artists including saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and bassist Ingebrigt Håker. She's also performed in rock groups, classical settings and noise improv. But while her work can be largely experimental, she also retains a sense of tradition that was evident in the first part of her set, during which she played the large, 17-string bass koto. Producing a deeply resonant timbre, Yagi bowed and plucked the instrument, creating rich yet spare melodies.

Punkt Festival 07 / Michiyo Yagi

But it was when she switched to the 21-string koto, which is in a register about two octaves above the bass koto, that the true breadth of her approach was heard. Beginning, again, with a more traditional approach, Yagi sang to a haunting koto melody, and it appeared that her set was going to remain form-and thematically-based. But she soon dispensed with that implication as she began strumming the instrument with increasing vigor, using a drumstick in her left hand to alter the pitch of the open strumming by sliding it up and down the instrument. Yagi built the intensity to a fever pitch, beginning to hit the strings with the stick, reaching a powerful and abrupt ending.

It was a stunning set that captivated the audience, who would not let her go without a brief encore that, once again, demonstrated her ability to mix tradition with a more modernist outlook.



comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms Live Reviews Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms
by Martin Longley
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 15, 2018
Read Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano Live Reviews Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano
by Keith Henry Brown
Published: January 13, 2018
Read Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café Live Reviews Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: January 2, 2018
Read Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook Live Reviews Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 29, 2017
Read "John Hart at The Turning Point Cafe" Live Reviews John Hart at The Turning Point Cafe
by David A. Orthmann
Published: May 2, 2017
Read "Ann Hampton Callaway at Birdland" Live Reviews Ann Hampton Callaway at Birdland
by Tyran Grillo
Published: November 5, 2017
Read "Vossajazz 2017" Live Reviews Vossajazz 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 23, 2017
Read "Pat Metheny at Cologne Philharmonic" Live Reviews Pat Metheny at Cologne Philharmonic
by Phillip Woolever
Published: November 8, 2017
Read "Los Angeles Guitar Quartet's European Debut of Pat Metheny Commission Highlights Uppsala International Guitar Festival" Live Reviews Los Angeles Guitar Quartet's European Debut of Pat...
by John Ephland
Published: November 1, 2017