Old Customs Hall
November 1, 2003
The Scorch Trio is an explosion waiting to happen. But guitarist Raoul Björkenheim, bassist Ingebrit Flaten and drummer Pals-Nilssen Love never let the bomb go off, instead putting it on a long fuse and letting the tension mount. They are often labeled a power trio, and yes, electric guitar fireworks, heavy electric bass and free-wheeling drums do call to mind images of Hendrix and Cream, and they could blow people out of the room if they wanted to but then their more interesting sonic textures would never manifest themselves.
More often than being labeled a power trio, Björkenheim has the adjectives “shamanistic” and “ritualistic” attached to his name. He has served his time in some of modern jazz’s more intense ensembles-Edward Vesala’s Sound and Fury and its progeny, Krakatau-but what comes through most clearly on this night of the Tampere Jazz Happening is his restraint. He takes his aggressive, metallic-toned playing, replete with alternative tunings and playing methods, and gives it a clearly defined shape that brings the audience in more than any high-volume feedback squalls.
For each of the trio four pieces he approaches the guitar with a radically different method, and more importantly he expands on those methods during each piece. On one he plays solely with a bow, creating slabs of sound that shift around on top of Flaten’s filtered bass. Björkheim is the tidal waves crashing again and again and Flaten the hurricance wind. Another piece sees Björkheim switch to twelve string, on which he explores clusters of single notes, his lines laden with ringing harmonics.
The set opener has the rhythm section thundering along under Björkheim’s spidery lines, hyper-charged funk chording, and rapid hammer-ons. The result a giant wall of sound that rumbles forward irresistibly.
While Björkheim centers the group with his energy, Love glues them together with his own hyper-charged rhythm patterns. Yet it is his phrasing and ability to show his ideas that builds the foundation, not his volume. At points he uses brushes, bringing down the volume but not the intensity.
So yes, there is power in this trio and Björkheim’s exuberant, active stage manner lets off a thrilling energy that might be called the ecstasy of ritual. But if a ritual does not open itself to you, does not let you see its purpose, then it is meaningless. The Scorch Trio has all three: power, purpose and meaning. The Electric Gods do indeed make love.
Complete coverage of the 2003 Tampere Jazz Festival...
Tampere Jazz Happening: Speaking a Universal Language
Wibutee in Tampere: Club Music and Jazz Collide
Erik Truffaz in Tampere: Fusion for the 21st Century
The Bad Plus in Tampere: Cinematic Trio Images
The Electrics in Tampere: All-Acoustic Electricity
Kornstad Trio in Tampere: Improvisation as Negotiation
Scorch Trio in Tampere: If Hendrix and Coltrane had a Love Child...
Uri Caine's Bedrock 3 in Tampere: Too Many DJs
Gnomus & Jukka Gustavsson in Tampere: The Wit of the Improviser
William Parker's Healing Song in Tampere
Samuli Mikkonen in Tampere: Composed Moods and Spontaneous Energy
Louis Sclavis in Tampre: Memories of a Naples that Never Was