NattJazz@Bergen: Arve Henriksen, Hedvig Mollestad Trio and a feisty Farmers Market
Arve Henriksen is a master improviser, but few people would happily climb on stage with a trumpet and electronics, and compete for space with two percussionists – especially two players with the power and drive of Audun Kleive and Helge Norbakken. Henriksen, though, never takes the easy road, and here the trio build detailed, expansive soundscapes that sit in two worlds.
On the one hand, there is Henriksen’s mournful, distinctive trumpet, slivers of potent emotion and urgent notes dancing around the tribal rhythms of Norbakken, who directs operations from behind his incongruous kit set-up, like a ship’s pilot negotiating a Norwegian fjord. He thunders and rolls around his instrument, injecting sudden precise bursts of low end that break across the room, and underscore the intricate, unorthodox interplay of Kleive.
This is deeply complex and accomplished, but it never feels studied. There is a natural feel to the band’s communication; ideas are swapped and passed, avenues explored, and a room filled with vital, exciting and deeply lyrical music.
Hedvig Mollestad Trio are an altogether different proposition. Mollestad leads her band with slow hand, bluesy rock riffs, ripping them out with no little style and a swagger most rock bands would aspire to. Beneath this, double-bass player Ellen Brekken builds some lovely walking lines, on solid groove foundations. In this context, the drumming is the weak link, and doesn’t communicate effectively between the jazz leanings of the bass and the rock blitz of the guitar lines, relying to heavily on predictable, straight-ahead beats that, for this type of audience, hold few surprises.
This, though, is still a big sounding band, with plenty to please, and the crowd are lapping up the big, fat riffs. When Brekken heads on a more ballad-like route, the sombre bluesy results are worth savouring; an odd drum solo that soon follows is definitely a step too far.
This is a rock action in a hard, jazzy space, then, that delivers a welcome, unapologetic diversion in the NattJazz context.
Sasquatch play fairly straight-up jazz with style and confidence, and amid all the experimentation and the cutting-edge sound creations that this festival offers, it’s really satisfying to walk in a room and hear a band performing solid songs with great writing and strong fundamentals. On stage, André Roligheten on horns, Arild Hoem on alto saxophone, Thomas Johansson on trumpet, Magnus Rød Haugland on bass and Dag Magnus Narvesen on drums create music that is progressive, and fairly timeless. This is a classy affair with plenty of riches worth experiencing.
Most of the rooms were a little light on crowds, because the Sardinen bar venue was packed to the rafters for Farmers Market, a big brash band with a heart of folk and plenty of boogie-woogie flair. This was a full-out sound, ripped from the stage by a highly strung band who had one purpose – to entertain.
For me, the band’s repertoire sounded a little dated, but the packed crowd were loving every shape and showman beat, and on a Saturday night it’s hard to argue with a relentless Balkan pace.
That’s all I managed to see of the main festival at NattJazz, but I’ll be posting a few other observations in the coming days from some choice concerts that were not part of the main programme.