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Kongsberg Jazz Festival Unveils All About Jazz Presents: Doing It Norway Program

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Kongsberg Jazz Festival
On February 1, 2012, Norway's Kongsberg Jazz Festival unveiled its first series of shows scheduled for the 2012 edition, running from July 4-7, 2012: a total of fourteen shows—seven of them detailed in this press release. AAJ is pleased to announce the lineup for its All About Jazz Presents: Doing It Norway festival-within-a-festival, following last fall's announcement of its invitation to collaborate with the Kongsberg Jazz Festival and Music Export Norway.

AAJ Managing Editor and All About Jazz Presents curator John Kelman explains, “It was a tremendous challenge to come up with a program encompassing as much of the best that Norway has to offer in just seven shows. It was, of course, impossible to include everyone that deserves to be there, but I believe the series provides a strong cross-sectional representation of the vibrant Norwegian scene that continues to pull me back to the country, year-after-year. It also demonstrates a rate of creative innovation that is remarkable and absolutely disproportionate to this country's relatively small size, with a range of musical depth and breadth traversing the broadest possible musical continuum. It's tremendously satisfying to have the opportunity to bring some particularly fine extant groups to Kongsberg under the All About Jazz Presents banner, as well as introduce a few new collaborations that will surprise even those who think they've heard it all. I'm extremely grateful to Kongsberg and Music Export Norway for giving All About Jazz this very special opportunity."

With all but one of its seven shows taking place at EnergiMølla on July 5 and 6, 2012, the artists participating in All About Jazz Presents: Doing It Norway include:

1. Eple Trio with Karl Seglem: July 5, 14:00. Pianist Andreas Ulvo, bassist Sigurd Hole and drummer Jonas Howden Sjøvaag have explored a very specific space, increasingly influenced by the geography, nature and wildlife of their Scandinavian home on three recordings, most recently In the Clearing / In the Cavern (NORCD, 2011). Eple Trio came together with NORCD label head/saxophonist Karl Seglem—whose own music is a personal reflection of Norwegian traditionalism and modernistic extemporization on albums including Ossicles (NORCD, 2010)—for 2009's NORSKJazz.no, and this opening show will explore the rare empathy that has developed amongst these four fine players.

2. Westerhus/Aarset/Endresen/Strønen: July 5, 19:00. A double-duo show featuring two of the country's most intrepid guitarists, Eivind Aarset and Stian Westerhus. Aarset, whose expansive approach to soundscaping can be heard on Live Extracts (Jazzland, 2010), debuts a new duo with the similarly electro-centric percussionist Thomas Strønen, co-founder of Food. Strønen is also a charter member of Humcrush with keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, whose latest recording, Ha! (Rune Grammofon, 2011), is a collaboration with singer Sidsel Endresen—and a fitting segue to the singer's ongoing spontaneous duo with Westerhus, comprising the other half of this double-bill. Endresen's very specific and cell-based approach to vocal improvisation has been evolving, with great inevitability, since she first emerged on the Norwegian scene nearly 30 years ago, while Westerhus' Pitch Black Star Spangled (Rune Grammofon, 2010) announced the emergence of an important new voice on guitar, embodying the old adage that in order to break all the rules, first you must learn them. Together, these two duos will highlight the contrasting approaches of two guitarist, one singer and one percussionist who manage to achieve breakthroughs with each and every recording.

3. Elephant9 with Reine Fiske: July 5, 23:59. Since emerging with DodoVoodoo (Rune Grammofon), power trio Elephant9—keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, electric bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen and drummer Torstein Lofthus—has driven the high octane jazz-rock of the early 1970s into a new millennium. For this performance, the trio—most recently heard on the vinyl-only Live at the BBC (Rune Grammofon, 2012)—teams up with Swedish guitarist Reine Fiske, whose own work with Dugen and The Amazing has been more in the psychedelic/progressive arena, but whose virtuosic abilities are clearly a match made in heaven for the equally electric and electrifying Elephant9.

4. Per Jørgensen and Friends: July 6, 14:00. A fixture on the Norwegian scene for three decades as a member of groups including Jøkleba! and Magnetic North Orchestra, trumpeter/vocalist/percussionist Per Jorgensen brings unfettered lyricism and an almost tribal primitivism to everything he touches, including his collaboration with Finnish pianist Samuli Mikkonen and drummer Markku Ounaskari, Kuára: Psalms and Folk Songs (ECM, 2010)—a remarkable recording of hidden meanings and dramaturgical heights. Jørgensen's participation in All About Jazz Presents is especially meaningful, as it's the first time he's performed as a bandleader, introducing a new quintet of tremendous promise: longtime collaborator/percussionist Terje Isungset, whose Ice Music has gained him international stature; harmonium player Sigbjorn Apeland, whose duo with violinist Nils Okland on Lysøen: Hommage à Ole Bull (ECM, 2011) explored a set of overlooked music from the late 1800s; keyboardist Morten Qvenild, a defining force in In The Country and Susanna and The Magical Orchestra; and Bergen-based electric bassist Morten Skage. With a working title as evocative as (memories) from the Gallery..., Jørgensen 's show promises to be the sleeper hit of Kongsberg 2012.

5. Jon Balke/Magnetic Book: July 6, 17:00 (at Kongsberg Kirke). Since emerging in the mid-1980s in one of Norway's legendary groups, Masqualero, keyboardist/composer Jon Balke has moved from one success to another, whether it's the brass-heavy Oslo 13, the quirky and freewheeling Jøkleba! or the pan-cultural and century-spanning Siwan (ECM, 2009). But it's his Magentic North Orchestra—now in its second decade and last heard on Diverted Travels (ECM, 2004)—that's his flagship. Magnetic Book is an expanded version of the nine-piece MNO that also includes six additional string players, and looks back at the group's repertoire with new eyes, new ears and new ideas.

6. Mats Eilertsen SkyDive Quintet: July 6, 19:00. Mats Eilertsen's international reputation has been on the ascendancy as bassist of choice for a variety of ECM artists including guitarist Jacob Young and pianists Tord Gustavsen and Wolfert Brederode, in addition to the collaborative quartet The Source. Since 2005, he's been ramping up his own work as a composer and bandleader, with SkyDive (Hubro, 2011) his best one yet: a tremendous quintet record that includes Finnish pianist Alexi Tuomarila and drummer Olavi Louhivouri—both members of Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's Dark Eyes quintet—along with the bassist's cohort in Dingobats, guitarist Thomas T. Dahl, and saxophonist Tore Brunborg, whose résumé on an international scale includes recent work with Gustavsen and Eilertsen on the pianist's The Well (ECM, 2012), as well as drummer Manu Katche and pianist Ketil Bjornstad. Marrying compelling writing with a lyrical approach to playing that doesn't preclude the occasional rough edge, SkyDive proves accessible needn't be mistaken for compromise.

7. Arve Henriksen / Audun Kleive / Helge Norbakken. July 6, 23:59. When trumpeter Arve Henriksen—a charter member of longstanding sonic improvising group Supersilent and whose own Cartography (ECM, 2008) was a stunningly beautiful recording with a groundbreaking compositional approach—debuted this all-improv trio at Natt Jazz 2011, it quickly became one of the most talked-about shows of the year. Collaborating with percussionist Helge Norbakken (Magnetic North Orchestra) and ex-Terje Rypdal Chasers drummer Audun Kleive (working solely on electronic drums), the trio's Natt Jazz show went from climax to climax, seeming to near an end a number of times only to have a snippet of an idea drive the trio in yet another direction to explore. With a few additional dates behind them, Henriksen, Kleive and Norbakken remain firmly committed to spontaneity, but with the added benefit of time to further hone the chemistry that was clearly there from the very first notes.


“I'm very excited about this series," Kelman says. “In addition to the opportunity of putting together a 'dream program' that embodies, I think, as many of the defining qualities that make the Norwegian scene significant as can be experienced in a limited number of performances, All About Jazz Presents: Doing It Norway has given me the chance to give something back to a country that has come to mean so much to me. I appreciate the incredible opportunities I've been afforded to travel from the northernmost tip of the country to the far south—from Svalbard to Oslo, Molde to Bergen, and Kristiansand to Kongsberg. All About Jazz: Doing It Norway is, amongst many other things, my way of saying 'thank you' to everyone for making it possible. I only hope that we can continue this collaboration in future years, as this series is, indeed, only the tip of a very big iceberg when it comes to the important music being made in Norway."

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz Publicity.
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