The Sticks is a new, young Norwegian trio, another product of the acclaimed jazz conservatory in Trondheimpianist Oscar Grönberg, (who was born in Sweden and plays in saxophonist Hanna Paulsberg quartet), double bassist Aksel Jensen and drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen (who plays in violinist Ola Kvernberg trio and in the modern jazz quintet Motif). The trio's name has two meanings for Norwegians and both may describe the spirit of its music: wasteland or middle-of-nowhere, but locals use it to describe "a condition where one becomes so hot and muggy that underwear becomes glued to the thighs."
The Sticks offer a fresh yet well-versed and respectful perspective of the legacy of Nordic jazz. The trio begins its debut album with a phrase that clearly pays respect to pianist Jan Johansson, later following the seminal path of Keith Jarrett's Scandinavian quartet, with the light-swinging rhythm section of double bass Palle Danielsson and drummer Jon Christensen. With the second piece, "4000," the trio emphasizes its mature, irreverent voice that searches for freer, abstract forms, not bound by the common, lyrical expressive language of ECM school of Scandinavian jazz.
The trio repertoire emphasizes its diverse vocabulary. It highlights a focused, tight vein of playfulness and drama, often spiced with sharp humor as on "Pizza" or open, improvised interplay as on "Gøteborgsyndromet" with a commanding, driving solo of Jensen. Jensen's solo introduction to "NSB" sketches the trio most experimental sonic searches. This journey is concluded with the post-bop, upbeat of "The Contest," that assures the trio deep knowledge and respect for the jazz tradition.
Skjærtorsdagsraggare; 4000; Copenhagen douche; Dr. Pizza;
Gøteborgsyndromet; NSB; The Contest.
Oscar Grönberg: piano; Aksel Jensen: bass; Håkon Mjåset Johansen: drums.
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