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Vossa Jazz 2016

Ian Patterson By

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It was serious business, however, when Økland and his group embarked on a suite whose title translates roughly as "The Glimmering Light." The piece began with Økland, saxophonist Rolf-Erik Nystrom, and bassist Mats Eilertsen on bow, stirring gentle eddies. The calm was dispelled by Hakon Morch Stene's urgent vibraphone pulse, which sounded a launching pad for more clearly defined melodic lines. Bass joined the vibraphone mantra, while Per Steinar Lie's electric guitar added dark sonic textures.

The music diminished in intensity, with instruments dropping out one by one to leave fiddle and bowed bass in sombre embrace. Harmonium and Torbjørn Økland on trumpet steered the music in a more abstract direction, with bass and Orjan Haaland's subtle cymbals briefly reigniting a groove. Rumbling drums sparked a heady ensemble passage akin to a psychedelic Fairport Convention in full cry.

The storm gave way to a softly voiced lyrical segment led first by fiddle and bass, then trumpet, over a carpet of harmonium and quietly rumbling mallets. Baritone saxophone, in unison with violin and bowed bass carved a gravely melodious course. The baritone dropping out was like a dark cloud passing to reveal the sunlight, as Økland and Eilertsen jointly engineered a slow, processional melody of simple design and stark beauty.

The spell was broken by a pulsating bass and guitar motif, soon joined by riffing fiddle, saxophone and trumpet as the sound swelled impressively. Crunching guitar and thundering drums paved the way for Nystrom's dual saxophone theatrics, with the ensemble surging towards a heady climax.

After an almost necessary pause, harmonium drone accompanied a haunting Økland melody that was as aching as an Irish lament. Poignant, meditative trumpet followed suit before a slow-chugging bass pulse ignited another stonking, and fierce ensemble charge of controlled abandon. Winding down, the rhythmic pulse continued to beat as fiddle, harmonium and trumpet dovetailed until the end, as softly as falling feathers.

There have been numerous notable commissions at Vossa Jazz since the very first in 1983, but it's hard to imagine there have been many quite as compelling as Nils Økland's "Glødetrådar."

Kare Kolve

Back in Voss' old cinema, veteran saxophonist Kare Kolve led a striking program of acoustic jazz. With bassist Anders Jormin, Mathias Eick, Ivar Kolve, Espen Berg and Per Oddvar Johansen, this was certainly an all-star sextet to get excited about. The music, it has to be said, lived up to the billing.

On the appropriately titled "Beginning" each musician got to stretch out, with Berg's classically tinged, elegant unaccompanied solo at the start, and his jazzier flight towards the song's end the pick of the bunch. Jormin's soulful arco intro stood out on "Sir K.W," an atmospheric tribute to the late, great Kenny Wheeler, with Ira Kolve delivering a wonderfully light yet coursing solo.

Korve's writing maximized the individual talent, with plenty of solos that engaged without ever overstaying their welcome. Yet the arc of the songs, indeed of the concert as a whole, balanced individualism and collective harmony. Hypnotic vibraphone announced "The Odyssey," a tune laden with interlocking motifs both urgent and languid, memorable too for Eick's strongly contoured solo and, by way of contrast, Berg's dizzying freewheeling.

"Melancholia" did what it said on the tin's label, though there was greater warmth in Eick's persuasive solo here than in the puffs-of-air lyricism that colors a lot of his own, highly recommended solo work. Likewise, Eick was in ebullient form on the buoyant "The Beauty of Being," his outstanding chops pushing Berg to a spirited response. A drum solo executed with hands, as surprising for its length as for its subtlety, completely recalibrated the ambiance, putting in striking relief the lively saxophone and piano-dominated passage that followed.

The encore took things down a notch or two, the leader's emotive, weaving solo and his brother Ivar's sympathetic response at the heart of another soulful tune. An accomplished, sensitive composer and a natural leader who brings the best out of those around him, Kolve's impressive set begged the question as to why he hasn't recorded more frequently as a leader.

Hedvig Mollestad Trio

Following the memorable Ragnhild Furebotten concert the Café Station bar was once again packed to the hilt, this time for the Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen Trio. The guitarist's incendiary trio set out its jazz-metal stall with its uncompromising debut, Shoot! (2011), and since then its reputation has only grown at home and abroad with the subsequent releases All Them Witches (2013) and Enfant Terrible (2014)—all on the Rune Grammofon label.

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