Territory of Two Norwegian Trumpeters


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At first blush Arve Henriksen and Nils Petter Molvaer might seem nearly indistinguishable. Both are pristine-sounding Norwegian trumpeters with conspicuous investment in electronics. They share a fondness for fragile lyricism and rippling atmosphere, building on a 40-year tradition that began with the Miles Davis album “In a Silent Way.” Both have pushed toward modern fusions, imbuing chamberlike or folkloric pop music with currents of improvisation. Each has recorded for the German label ECM.

But judging by their successive sets at Le Poisson Rouge on Tuesday night, Mr. Henriksen and Mr. Molvaer might as well come from different planets. Performing to an enthusiastic full house the two trumpeters presented distinct visions of a post-Miles landscape. There was overlap between them, but the dissimilarities were more striking, and perhaps more telling.

Mr. Molvaer advanced a familiar brand of electrojazz, oscillating between chilly calm and steep propulsion. Appearing in a late headlining slot with two accompanists, the guitarist Eivind Aarset and the drummer Audun Kleive, he fashioned his first piece into an overture: starting in a fog, it gradually took shape and ended with a riot of samba rhythm. Mr. Molvaer made shrewd, ample use of his digital filters. He refracted some horn lines as if through a harmonic prism and polished others with a metallic gleam.

Mechanism occupies a central chapter in Mr. Molvaer’s playbook. During one lively stretch in his set, he barely used his trumpet, focusing instead on the dials at his console. His final tune — “Cruel Altitude,” from a new European release, “Hamada” (Sula Records) — took on a brutal intensity, with his trumpet slashing bladelike through blasts of distortion.

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