Somnambule - Writing About Music

Jazzland Tenth Anniversary Celebration

Jazz Cafe
30th March 2006

Together with Rune Grammofon and Smalltown Superjazzz, Jazzland is one of Norway's premiere new jazz labels. 2006 sees its tenth anniversary, hence this celebratory concert and its Paris-convened sister event. The label has played host to a fascinatingly diverse roster of artists that’s ranged from the strikingly contemporary electronic jazz of Eivind Aarset to the ageless ice music of Terje Isungset, via the club-friendly Beady Belle and the neo-postbop of Atomic. Tonight's line-up proves to be a mix and match festival in miniature that begins with Bugge Wesseltoft, label boss and exemplar of the right side of nu-jazz. After a typically friendly greeting, he plays a solo on grand piano whose simplicity is beguilingly deceptive, hiding as it does emotional honesty married to endearing playfulness. He then bends over the piano and begins to drum on its insides, thereby creating rhythmic loops that form the basis of the next piece. Unlike many performers who deploy loops, he proceeds to play the loops themselves on small touch pads and builds to an abstract crescendo reminiscent of electronica innovators, Autechre.

The Eivind Aarset trio take to the stage next and perform a song that despite Wetle Holt's block-rockin' beats and the leader's angry hornet attack sounds rather too familiar. After three albums of strikingly contemporary electronic jazz hybrids, it seems that the guitarist may have begun to run out of ideas. Saxophonist Hakon Kornstad joins them for their final number and then takes a solo set whose energetic melodicism draws enthusiastic applause from the packed crowd. Next, Sidsel Endresen creates a bewitching patchwork quilt of ticks, whispers and snippets of overheard conversation that speak of alienation, sadness and sudden, unexpected beauty. For the final two pieces, the night’s musicians perform together. Their first song gathers itself into a fascinating exposition of electronic jazz, but the second is dominated by Endresen’s – in this instance – overly mournful tones and what should have culminated in a sense of celebration ends on a note of sadness.

Colin Buttimer
Published by Jazzwise magazine