Steve Lehman and Pat Metheny Lead The Moldejazz Pack

ThorEgilLeirtro-SteveLehman-Moldejazz2017

Flying north-west from Oslo on a propeller aeroplane, the first impression of Molde arrives via its surrounding terrain of misty, snow-topped mountains, dotted wooden inhabitations and sea-circled islets. The town of Molde is more conventionally concrete at its centre, but it takes only 10 minutes of uphill trudging to reach the surrounding wilderness. Here we have one of Europe's very oldest jazz festivals, first sprouted in 1961, and now Norway's leading, venerable institution.

For an old-timer festival, Moldejazz still retains a youthful sense of adventure, its programming boasting an emphasis on unlikely encounters, first time presentations and boldly variegated music forms. We could shake our bluesy hips, but we could also tremble under the full onslaught of free-squall. We could leaf through the standard Broadway songbook, but we could also nod cerebellums to the most advanced forms of avant-rap.

Gigs are plentiful over the six-day run, but most of the core sets can be caught by striding between the fairly close-proximity venues. Radical overlaps are few. The main Plassen library-cum-arts centre has a medium-sized theatre and a small jazz club, Storyville, which operates all year round. The big-name shows took place at the Bjørnsonhuset, and a couple of large-scale open-air gigs happened uphill in the grassy natural amphitheatre of the Romsdalsmuseet. As Molde is a relatively small town, most of its venues tended to fill up to near capacity, hosting artists that in bigger cities would have sold out spaces twice the sizes of these. A sense of communal intimacy, gathered.

On the first day, at 10pm in Storyville, the New York saxophonist Steve Lehman played to a smallish, unseated audience. Unseated in more ways than one! Word of Lehman's new hip-hop outfit Sélébéyone (top) has perhaps not fully spread, or its approach was deemed too extreme, upon a sample listen. Well, essentially, this five-piece delivered one of the festival's prime sets, supple and sleek, marrying rigorous twin-saxophone themes (alto/soprano) to an involved beat structure that combined electro-beats with Damion Reid's live twitch-drumming. The rappers are atypical types, HPrizm (of Antipop Consortium) adopting the US weird-hop stance, and the Senegalese Gaston Bandimic turning his Wolof tongue into part of the phonetically complex barrage. This is radical rap, forming the ideal fusion with radical jazz, providing a rare alternative to most of the previous stylish funkoid attempts, down the decades.

TerjeRypdal byOleBjornSteinsvik

On the second day, veteran Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal (above) rocked out! A front row press chair can be a dangerous place! Even though he remained seated throughout, not too easy on his feet, this had absolutely no effect on the immense power of Rypdal's axe-work. There were a few numbers that involved a more ECM-friendly spaciousness, but Rypdal mostly ripped out extended distorto-spirals, his evil partner-in-the-devil's-music being Hammond organist Ståle Storløkken, helping to reach the furthest corners of the cosmos. The music's tar-slow and dub-heavy, Rypdal rearing up to a howling strike, making a sludge-rock start, then developing a prog aura, with distorted bass, skipping drums, and a roiling Hammond solo. With this Conspiracy quartet, Rypdal seems set on re-visiting his most rocking roots in the 1960s and 1970s, bringing out his bleeding extremes. It's a reeling miasma, with each player periodically coming up for air, to solo, then dive back into the whirlpool once more. A quieter stretch involves a held organ tone, with Rypdal building shapes via wah-wah pedal, steadily increasing the bleed. Then, he whipped out a bottleneck, for some psychedelic blues, followed by an almost ludicrously gargantuan Hammond solo, almost hitting the Deep Purple patch.

Onsdag-19.07.17-Rasmussen.-Guy-Taborn.-Parkins

A perfect example of Moldejazz's unique programming was the Storyville set hosted by Mette Rasmussen, where this Danish alto saxophonist invited her preferred improvising partners, thereby creating a most unusual combination of Zeena Parkins (electric and acoustic harps), Craig Taborn (piano) and Barry Guy (bass, above with Rasmussen). An almost completely unfamiliar situation for all four players. An austere modern classical aura blooms first, until Parkins switches to her personalised electro-harp, bullying the improvisation towards a harder, louder rubble-spewing. This encourages Guy to adopt an equally aggressive stance, while Rasmussen works away at repeating phrases, doggedly inserting a spine into the midst of the surrounding amorphousness. Swerving away from her established free-bleating vocabulary, she wisely acts as the quartet's steely structural guru.

On the fourth day, at 2pm, another winning set: German veteran Alexander von Schlippenbach leads his absurdist virtuoso combo Monk's Casino (below), in a most sympathetic treatment of the Thelonious canon. Not many interpreters have managed to catch Monk's twinkling gleam of ambling humour, but this crew are masters of ironic clowning, armed with a severe scalpel of thematic editing. They barely pause for breath, as each tune careens into the next, gaps tiny, pace flat-out, wriggles at maximum. Monk's Casino play completely acoustically, except for (possibly) a very low level bass amplifier. Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet) and Axel Dörner (trumpet) make odd steps, sharp segues, and sudden solos that are literally lonesome outbursts. Monk is discovered at his most lean and wiry, as these cantankerous misfits wander the stage completely at ease and informal, so intravenously infected are they by the great centenarian's music.

MonksCasino byOleBjornSteinsvik

A few hours later, the starry blues pairing of TajMo (Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo') packed the sunny uphill park, dividing their repertoires equally, and appearing to genuinely dig each other's songs. Mister Mahal might have mostly remained seated, but that didn't curb his dance moves, as he sang richly, playing guitar, banjo and harmonica, with his daughters on backing vocals, plus a fine horn section to lend even greater spirit. Their combination is winning!

I'd caught Herbie Hancock nearly a fortnight previously at the Gent Jazz Festival, where his set floundered around like a loose jam session, with much inward-looking noodling. The revered keyboardist's Molde set was way superior, the band by this time having locked much tighter, with its leader in an extremely energised and extroverted state. There were still abundant solos, but these sounded more directed out to the audience than within the band, Hancock stalking around with his keytar, possessing energy to equal that of Chick Corea. Both of these veteran greats seem to enjoy the marathon set, a tendency very well justified in this case.

The programming at Moldejazz is so exceptional that we haven't even had chance yet to mention the two artists who played a significant number of 'in residence' gigs, all of them in stretching settings. Vijay Iyer mainly repeated existing collaborations, mostly with fellow Americans, aside from the meeting with Norway's own Cikada String Quartet. The pianist played duo sets with Craig Taborn (piano) and Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet), and was most disappointing when delivering his Holding It Down war veterans concept piece, in partnership with wordsmith Mike Ladd. Iyer made up for this latter failing with an astonishing set by his own sextet, delivering numbers from the new Far From Over album. Drummer Tyshawn Sorey worked at an unceasingly powerful level, matching force with polyrhythmic complexity, seemingly soloing without let-up, soloing as a naturally ongoing state. Meanwhile, the front line of Graham Haynes, Steve Lehman and Mark Shim produced a staggering crossfire of solos, with the latter saxophonic pair enjoying a particularly tussling ascendance.

Meanwhile, Pat Metheny jumped right in, collaborating with Norwegians, forcing himself to negotiate uncharted waters, and producing results that held a consistency of excitement. His trio set with bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Gard Nilssen had an easy, supple sense of enquiry, as they each staked out a generous patch of soloing space. Metheny met the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, passing through a country ramble, then being goaded towards a raunchier precipice by an orchestra that delights in jacking between serrated improvisation and organised, harmonious washes, mostly equipped with a conventional big band swing. Until Mette Rasmussen emerges with a bittersweet solo, singing in alternation between drum thunder and horn section stabs, epic in development and repeated climaxing. Even more remarkable was Metheny's midnight meeting with Jaga Jazzist, a less likely combination. This densely formed collective made ample space for the guitarist's searing, multi-faceted solos, and Metheny appeared to be ecstatic in this angular, math-jazz setting, as Jaga Jazzist matched his enthusiasm, acknowledging his long-held influence in their lives.

– Martin Longley

– Photos by Thor Egil Leirtrø (top), Ole Bjørn Steinsvik (second from top and bottom) and Geir Jartveit (third from bottom) and Moldejazz

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Saxophonist Alexander Bone wins Kenny Wh…

Twenty-two-year old saxophonist Alexander Bone (above) has been announced as...

Read More.....

LA Fusion stars Spirit Fingers fire-up f…

Virtuosic LA jazz-fusion band Spirit Fingers are set for a...

Read More.....

Call The Cops: Jazzers Run Riot At Bruss…

The annual Brussels Jazz Weekend operates on a gargantuan scale...

Read More.....

Hundred Years Gallery Holds Speaker-Thon

The Hundred Years Gallery, a not-for-profit space showcasing free improvisation...

Read More.....

Babelfish swim to Kings Place for Once U…

Acclaimed jazz-folk group Babelfish are set to launch their new...

Read More.....

Michael Janisch kicks out the jams for n…

Whirlwind Recordings label boss Michael Janisch (above centre) steps back...

Read More.....

Lost Miles Davis Rubberband album snaps …

Rubberband, a previously unissued 1985 album by Miles Davis, is...

Read More.....

Grégoire Tirtiaux and Gratitude Trio lea…

This is a festival where it’s possible to completely miss Kamasi...

Read More.....

Final Bow For The Night Tripper – A Trib…

Refuting the title of his biggest hit, ‘Right Place, Wrong...

Read More.....

Rossano Sportiello rounds out Harriet Co…

For 40 amazing years, the singer Harriet Coleman has presented...

Read More.....

Ronnie Scott’s rolls up to Royal Albert …

Ronnie Scott’s, the iconic London jazz club, will mark its...

Read More.....

Wollny Steals The Night As Moran Breaks …

The first thing to notice were the queues, over 200...

Read More.....

Steam Down, Emma-Jean Thackray and Leafc…

Stroud’s reputation as the alternative hippy hub of the Cotswolds...

Read More.....

Andrew McCormack returns with Graviton: …

Award-winning pianist Andrew McCormack storms back with the second volume...

Read More.....

Jazz Cafe sax summit kicks off second Lo…

Following its successful inaugural run last year, the London Saxophone...

Read More.....

McFerrin Moves Estonian Voices To Jubila…

The second half of Tallinn’s 10-day Jazzkaar festival was particularly...

Read More.....

Herbie Hancock, Terri Lyne Carrington an…

The line-up for this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival is...

Read More.....

Williams And Mancio Find Home With Subli…

  Kate Williams and her distinctive Four Plus Three, that’s her...

Read More.....

McBride, Porter, Reeves and Jazz At Linc…

Although it is a respected cultural event throughout the Caribbean...

Read More.....

Major unreleased Tubby Hayes Fontana alb…

Christmas comes early for fans of the late, great Brit-jazz...

Read More.....

Ripsaw Get Rolling

Baritone saxophonist Cath Roberts and guitarist Anton Hunter take their...

Read More.....

Cello Fellows Honsinger, Dixon & Lon…

The fifth annual Chicago Jazz String Summit took place at...

Read More.....

Bristol Jazz Fest launches Crowdfunder l…

The Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival has launched a...

Read More.....

Marcus Miller, Tim Garland and Leïla Mar…

The full line-up for this year’s Manchester Jazz Festival has...

Read More.....

Joshua Redman And Sosa Electrify Spirits…

After last year’s swelter, Cheltenham Festival offered a more temperate climate for...

Read More.....

Friedlander Frames Family Memories At Ka…

  If many contemporary jazz festivals opt for maximum numbers, gigs-wise...

Read More.....

Bonsai band bounce out for album and UK…

Progressive jazz five-piece Bonsai – formerly known as Jam Experiment...

Read More.....

Prieto Exhibits Latin Prowess, While Med…

This 30th edition of the Savannah Music Festival featured a...

Read More.....

Jazz 625 BBC4 Live broadcast and Free St…

With Cheltenham Jazz Festival set for a busy six days...

Read More.....

Steam Down Collective, Sons Of Kemet, Ca…

This year’s Jazz FM Awards ceremony took place at Shoreditch...

Read More.....

Ribot Leads Revolutionary Call At Jazz E…

Portugal’s premier experimental jazz bash, Jazz em Agosto, adopts a...

Read More.....

Cinematic Orchestra, Friday Arena and Ba…

The organisers of this year’s Love Supreme Jazz Festival, which...

Read More.....

John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension …

  Kicking off this evening’s set with a high-octane crash through...

Read More.....

Terri Lyne Carrington, Joe Lovano and Lu…

This year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, its 27th edition, runs...

Read More.....

Stanley Clarke Captivates With Crowd-Sur…

As Return to Forever bass legend Stanley Clarke (pictured above) opened...

Read More.....

Bro, Seim and Gustafsson amid the Scandi…

  As a snapshot of the great charm of Vossa Jazz's...

Read More.....

Making The Cut Mpu 300x500px

Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

Saxophonist Alexander Bone wins Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize https://t.co/bdE4UqfWIB https://t.co/8suBYgiXKv
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
LA Fusion stars Spirit Fingers fire-up for UK live dates (minus smoke machine) https://t.co/1XRjU9hJN5 https://t.co/YCtrs9Iy8K
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA