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The Free-bassing Ingebrigt Håker Flaten

Mark Corroto By

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Devotees of jazz bassists also tend to enjoy cycling's domestiques, baseball's infielders, and football's (both European and American) defensive players. The timekeeper's fans appreciate craftsmanship over the flamboyance and flash of the leader. So a musician such as Norway's Ingebrigt Håker Flaten often finds his role has been overshadowed by his bandmates. In the free jazz/quasi-rock band The Thing, the outrageousness of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson dominates. Same for Raoul Björkenheim's Scorch and his pairing with saxophonists Joe McPhee and Evan Parker. But those who come for the headliner are often captivated by the workmanship and energy of this bassist.

Formally trained at the Music Conservatory in Trondheim, Flaten quickly became a mainstay of the blossoming Norwegian jazz scene and the new jazz sounds out of Chicago. With drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, he acted as the glue holding together the post-bop Scandinavian supergroup Atomic, Ken Vandermark's School Days, and the aforementioned band, The Thing. Like Nilsson-Love, Flaten has flourished, releasing Quintet (Jazzland, 2004) and The Year Of The Boar (Jazzland, 2008). He currently maintains his Chicago Sextet and The Young Mothers from his new home of Austin, Texas.

These two solo bass recordings, one acoustic and one electric, follow Flaten's previous release, which was simply entitled Double Bass (Sofa, 2003).

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten

Steel—Live In Bucharest

Tektite Records

2012

Like his American counterpart William Parker, Flaten is a formidable presence on the bass. His sound creates a real (and imagined) energy presence that can be felt in the bass' low end and through the shear physicality of this recording.

Captured live at the National Center of Dance in Bucharest in 2010, the solitary figure casts a long shadow here. Opening with plucked bass notes, Flaten pulls traditional acoustic bass sounds from his deep reserve, allowing them to hang in the air and dissipate on their own. "Steel, Part 2" finds him switching to his bow to bring a thunderous bottom sound and chest trembling feel. As Flaten glides between the highs and lows, he delivers a sort of gritty chamber-like jazz that dances between gracefulness and muscularity.

The bowing of "Part 2" gives way to the extended technique of "Steel, Part 3." Flaten delivers the bass-equivalent of a saxophonist overblowing by manipulating his instrument into a buzzing body that he smacks like players from the earliest days of jazz. The final track has Flaten producing sitar-like sounds from the upper registers and more sounds than a bass is supposed to make.

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten

Birds—Solo Electric

Tektite Records

2012

The more experimental of the two solo bass releases, Birds might be hard to identify as a bass record. Flaten has a bag full of effects, and uses all on this studio date recorded in Oslo, 2007, with one live track, aptly named "Chicago," captured at The Hideout in 2008.

"Birds" kicks things off with controlled feedback and (probably) a bow bounced off the electrified strings. Flaten coxes high-pitched notes, or bird songs from his setup and serves them with an echoey punch of shocked nerves. This recording of stuttering electric and sometimes noise might be an invitation to duo with the Japanese noise artist Masami Akita aka Merzbow. Flaten mixes the grinding of "BP" against the almost ambient "Lucia," where a repetitive chip-chip-chip balances against a nonplussed progression of melody.

Plugged-in, Flaten can bring a wall of noise and distortion to "Shadow Hillside" and the popping, almost beatbox sounds of "Two." His electrified sound on "Chicago" recalls guitarist Jimi Hendrix playing the "Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock, as he reaches for upper-register pyrotechnics and blues driven distortions. Can you say "yeah?"

Tracks and Personnel

Steel: Live In Bucharest

Tracks: Steel, Part 1; Steel, Part 2; Steel, Part 3; Steel, Part 4.

Personnel: Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: acoustic double bass.

Birds: Solo Electric

Birds; BP; Lucia; Shadow Hillside; Two; Chicago.

Personnel: Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: electric bass.

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