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Vossa Jazz 2016

Ian Patterson By

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The venue was VossVind, a sky-diving centre where a vertical tunnel fifty six feet high and with a diameter of just fourteen feet channels wind at speeds of up to 300 kph. Nilssen, one of modern jazz's most thrilling drummers, gave a dynamic performance that utilized electronic soundscapes while two skydivers, Rune Aspvik and Martin Kristensen, rode the wind in a breath-taking choreography of balletic grace and daring precision.

Unable to hear Nilssen's rhythms through the glass, the two skydivers responded to visual clues: when Nilssen's sticks were a blur the skydivers circled each other—upside down—at dizzying speeds, or shot upwards, then to plummet down to within inches of the meshed floor; when brushes, mallets or hands worked the drum heads lightly, or when a bass bow drew sighs from the cymbals, the two skydivers responded with more graceful movements, floating and pirouetting slowly. A grammatical arc could be discerned in both drumming and skydiving, with the intensity of the performance ebbing and flowing, reaching a heady climax before dissolving.

After half an hour, with the protagonists' feet firmly on the ground—while the audience was most likely still high- -Nilssen explained that the performance had been about eighty per cent improvised. It was a typically left-field and audacious piece of programming by Vossa Jazz, beautifully executed by Nilssen, Aspvik and Kristensen. Maybe the only way to top this in the future would be to have Nilssen and one of his ensembles perform on the other, slightly windier side of the glass. Just a thought.

Gabriel Fliflet

Norwegian folk music is an important element of Vossa Jazz, which might seem odd to some at first. However, given that so much contemporary Norwegian jazz is inspired by the country's traditional music, then the juxtaposition of folk and jazz at Vossa Jazz serves to illuminate the bigger picture.

The instrumentation, melodies and rhythms of Norwegian folk continue to find their way into contemporary Norwegian jazz, with Daniel Herskedal and Marius Neset's sublime Neck of the Woods (Edition Records, 2012) being just one recent and notable example.

The packed cinema hall—with people sitting on the floor all the way around the walls—attested to the popularity of accordionist Gabriel Fliflet, Norwegian Folk Musician Of The Year 2011, and a previous recipient of the Vossa Jazz prize. In a thirty year career, Fliflet has explored the music of the Baltic Sea region and delved into Scottish folk music of the Shetland Islands with fiddler Willie Hunter and guitarist Peerie Willie Johnson. This project, however, commissioned by Vossa Jazz, required Fliflet to put new music to Johannes Gjerdaker's award-winning translations of the songs of Scottish poet/lyricist Robert Burns, an important influence on, amongst others, Bob Dylan.

In the trio's delivery—Berg singing in Norwegian—there was both the tenderness and some of the humor of Burns' pen: the former was epitomized by Berg's haunting rendition of "A Red, Red Rose"—a song that still captivates and inspires over two hundred years later—with Fliflet's accordion sounding a low, bag pipe-like drone; the latter was conjured in the Burns' tune "O Gud Ale Comes and Gud Ale Goes"—a homage to the cheering properties of good beer.

Fliflet switched to piano on one gently lyrical tune, while Berg plucked a jaw harp on another, taken at a livelier clip that evoked a Scottish jig. There was genuine feeling for these old Scottish tunes although the prevailing aesthetic, in terms of instrumentation and rhythms, was assuredly Norwegian.

A good tune well delivered, as Flifelt Berg and Roine demonstrated, knows no borders and is for the ages. This was music both traditional and innovative at one and the same time.

Nils Økland: Glødetrådar

Prior to Nils Okland's performance, Vossa Jazz festival director Trude Storheim presented the Vossa Jazz Award for Best Jazz Musican to Oyvind Skarbo, perhaps best known for 1982, a one-of-a-kind trio with Økland and Sigbjorn Apeland that has garnered critical acclaim for albums such as 1982 (NORCD, 2009), Pintura (Hubro Records, 2011) and 1982 + BJ Cole (Hubro Records, 2012).

Skarbø also plays in and composes for Bly de Blyant, whose label-resistant music fuses elements of jazz, folk, rock and pop, and in the wonderful opera-cum-jazz group, the Hakon Kornstad Ensemble. All three bands are well worth checking out.

The Head of Hordaland County, Anne Gine Hestetun then gave a speech, which drew enough laughter to suggest that should she ever hang up her robes of high office then a career in comedy beckons.


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