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Vossa Jazz 2016

Ian Patterson By

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Endresen's vocalizations—syllabic and non-syllabic alike—skirted the interface between folk—melodious and lyrical—and jazz—rhythmically pronounced—and plosive utterances that bore a highly personal stamp. Bang, far from being merely electronic counterpoint to Endresen, instead engaged in exactly the same way as any improvising musician would, by bouncing ideas back and forth organically. For well over half an hour, the duo explored sonic avenues less traveled, and if at times the music seemed a little repetitive as they jammed and dug for the magic, this was the trade-off for the frequent passages of truly inspired creativity.

The rest of the evening in the Gamlekinoen promised much, with contributions from artists of the celebrated Jazzland label—celebrating its twentieth year—including Bugge Wesseltoft, Henrik Schwarz and Dan Berglund, amongst others. However, another gig back at the Park Hotel, by one of Norway's most exciting young jazz talents, was too enticing to ignore.

Hanna Paulsberg

Whilst it's difficult to label much modern Norwegian music, the Hanna Paulsberg Concept belongs unequivocally in the acoustic jazz tradition—evoking, in spirit at least, the lyricism and compositional elasticity of Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, and latterly, Jeff Ballard's trio. Yet as Paulsberg demonstrated on Waltz for Lilli (Ora Fonogram, 2012) and Song for Josia (Ora Fonogram, 2014), her accomplished writing and her mazy improvisations are very much her own.

HPC —making its debut at Vossa Jazz—was showcasing material from its third CD, Eastern Smiles, (Odin, 2016), which broadly speaking follows in the vein of its previous recordings. The quartet eased through the gears on "Ayumi," with pianist Erlend Slettervol and Paulsberg stretching out, cajoled by the ever-dynamic Hans Hulbaekmo. The concept throughout the set, it seemed, was the tension between control and freedom within strong compositional frameworks. For Paulsberg, the song is the thing.

Hulbaekmo and bassist Trygve Waldemar Fiske's dancing African groove dominated "Hemulen på byn," while "A Coat of Many Colors"—the only tune from the group's first two CDs—morphed from delicate impressionism to more robust interplay, driven by Hulbaekmo's increasingly animated sticks. Not content to rest on her laurels, Paulsberg introduced two as yet unreleased tracks, with her beautifully weighted playing central to both.

Powerful group dynamics were at the heart of a searching, post-Coltrane exploration, whereas a playful Afro- Caribbean vibe colored "Catalan Boy." On the latter, Hulbaekmo unleashed a swashbuckling solo before the jaunty melody returned to make a final pass. The inevitable encore swung between sotto voce balladry and more intense group exclamations before Paulsberg steered the tune quietly to its conclusion.

Paulsberg's HPC is clearly on an upward trajectory. Its sound may have remained largely unchanged over the course of more than four years but the chemistry is ever-more pronounced and the collective playing on undeniably strong material is absolutely first-rate. In short, a quartet that would grace any stage in the world.

There was time to catch the tail end of fiddler Ragnhild Furebotten's gig in the cosy, pub-like surroundings of the Café Station. Saxophonists Torben Snekkestad and Frode Nymo, trombonist/arranger Helge Sunde, trumpeters Marius Haltti and Eckhard Baur, and tuba player Lars Andreas Haug—aka Never on a Sunday—provided vibrant support to Furebotten's jazzed-up folk tunes from Norway's far North.

In the ensemble's driving rhythms there was something of the energy of Balkans music and in the leader's joyous, elegant melodies resided hints of Celtic reels alongside Norwegian hymnal roots. More of this soulful, uplifting folk music wouldn't have gone amiss.

Red Kite

There was a bit of a buzz about the quartet Red Kite's gig. With a line-up boasting guitarist Even Helte Hermansen (Bushman's Revenge), keyboardist Bernt Moen (Shining), bassist Trond Frones (Grand Central) and drummer Torstein Lofthus (Shining, Elephant9), Red Kite constitutes a modern day Norwegian super-group. Its full-on sound fused super-charged rock with a free-jazz aesthetic -a sort of gothic Mahavishnu Orchestra for the 21st century. Red Kite's energy was undeniable and Hermansen in particular impressed with one blistering solo after another. After a while, however, the compositions seemed to blend together as one.

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