Kongsburg and Bergen for Nordic Sounds Tour July 2014

 

Kongsberg-Tubaloon-rdo
Jazzwise
and Master Travel have combined to present a jazz tour of Norway, the tour leader, Charles Alexander, introduces the sights and sounds of the up-coming trip

I was delighted when Jazzwise and Master Travel invited me to be Tour Leader of their Nordic Sounds tour in July. I first visited Norway in the late 1980s on a walking holiday and found it to be one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. It was easy to see why the rugged grandeur of its mountains and fjords, the clear northern light, its long coastline and challenging climate would be reflected in the work of so many of its many writers, artists and musicians.

My first introduction to Norwegian jazz was through the early-1970s debut albums of Jan Garbarek and guitarist Terje Rypdal. Both of these young musicians shared certain distinctive characteristics – a unique sound on their particular instrument, the unhurried pace of their music, an absence of any bebop clichés, and a sense of dramatic tension and release. Although both were talented improvisers, their musical language was far removed from that of the American jazz of the period or, indeed, of the growing European free jazz music scene. Later in the 1970s I invited the Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen to present his trio at a Jazz Centre Society concert at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, possibly the first Norwegian jazz musician to lead his own group in the UK. Since then, Andersen has never stopped touring internationally, while Garbarek has enjoyed a stellar career. The latter in particular has inspired successive generations of Norwegian musicians to find their own creative voice and today the ears of the world are increasingly drawn to the evocative original music emanating from this small country.

The Nordic Sounds Tour offers us an opportunity to listen to Arild Andersen’s quartet at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival, which celebrates its 50th anniversary during our visit. Alongside Arild Andersen will be the Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson, the Norwegian saxophonist Bendik Hofseth and the legendary US drummer Billy Hart, plus a special guest whose identity remains a closely guarded secret. Other artists at Kongsberg during our visit include Dave Holland’s Prism, Joshua Redman, Jan Gunnar Hoff and the powerhouse saxophone trio of Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker and Joe McPhee.

After two days of music in Kongsberg, the Nordic Sounds Tour then winds its way by road and the world’s steepest railway through beautiful mountain landscapes including the Hardangervidda Mountain Plateau towards the fjord village of Fläm. Here we cruise by boat to the world’s deepest fjord, Songefjord, staying overnight in the delightful mountain village Ulvik. From there we sail along the coastline to Bergen where, among other pleasures, you may visit the house of composer Edvard Grieg.

There is an optional tour extension to Denmark (8-12 July) where we visit Copenhagen, one of Europe’s celebrated jazz cities, and Aarhus which hosts a wonderful informal jazz festival in its cosy cafes, bars and open-air in its parks and squares.

The Nordic Sounds tour is a wonderful opportunity to hear some great jazz in two countries famed for their musicality and for the beauty of their landscapes and the charm of their towns and cities.
For full information on the tour go to www.mastertravel.co.uk

Charles Alexander

 

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