Jazz it up

Norwegian jazz is enjoying column inches of attention in the British press for the moment with names like Solveig Slettahjell and Terje Rypdal generating the headlines.

The February issue of influential UK jazz magazine Jazzwise dedicates several pages to Norwegian artists. They start off praising singer Solveig Slettahjell whose latest album is 'Pixiedust'. Journalists Stuart Nicholson writes in the magazine's 'Taking Off' section that Slettahjell's voice immediately demands attention: 'Without wringing a song for sentimentality, her ability to get inside a song and reveal and extract new meanings from it was as unsettling as moving. Slettahjell puts you through the emotional wringer and by the end of her concerts you know you've experienced something unique. (...) Her voice - pure, haunting and with inch perfect intonation - unwound with perfect control, creating an approach and mood quite unique in jazz.'

Under the headline 'Nordic Warrior', Jazzwise journalist Andy Robson interviews legendary guitarist Terje Rypdal over two full pages. The article looks at how Rypdal merges several music types and avoids being labelled as one or the other. Robson writes: 'The Norwegian guitarist is at home with jazz and rock as he is with classical music, with creative restlessness that coincides uncannily with the spirit of Miles Davis'. In the interview Rypdal comments: "My mission is to bring the world of jazz  and composing together. I recently did a piece in Innsbruck with a classical orchestra. Nothing was written down. They could start at any note, then they changed chromatically; and there comes a time where I tell them they are the world's best soloists and it turned out fantastic! Don't tell them it's jazz and it'll turn out great. It turned out better than anything I could've written."

Rypdal's latest album 'Vossabrygg' (translates as 'Vossa Brew') is also reviewed in the magazine and awarded four out of five stars by Robson. He writes: 'It's increasingly rare to hear him on record playing in this kind of 'jazz' context, unadorned by strings or heavily composed structures, so the looser forms of Vossabrygg are a welcome space to  stretch out in his sky-soaring style. A welcome run out from the great guitar man, but this is one brew he's particularly whipped up for Mikkelborg whose haunting trumpet is the key sound throughout.'

Jazzwise also looks back at 'Norwegian Voices', a concert staged at London’s Barbican in December which gathered scores of Norwegian artists. The much-talked-about event explored the rich vein of music that has emerged from Norway during the past 50 years and took as its starting point some of the key elements that have distinguished the evolution of this unique music. It included many of its most important figures as well as incorporating work representing present and future generations. On stage in front of a sell-out crowd were artists such as Terje Rypdal, Sami singer Mari Boine, pianist Ketil Bjørnstad, The Brazz Brothers, singer Sidsel Endresen and many more.  Jazzwise reviewer Duncan Heining is enthusiastic about the various performances and writes: 'Can you imagine the British Council sponsoring and event like this? Celebrating a hundred years of independence, the Norwegian Embassy chose to bring to London some of their finest  performers. Nothing bland and safe mind you, instead music from several generations at the cutting edge of their craft.'

By the sound of it, this year looks set to be another success story for Norwegian jazz artists in the UK. Watch out!

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Terje Rypdal's latest album 'Vossabrygg' receives great reviews in the UKPhoto: ECM Records

Singer Sidsel Endresen took part in Norwefian Voices in DecemberPhoto: CF-Wesenberg

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