Strong Norwegian presence at London Jazz Festival

Mari Boine, Scorch Trio, Ketil Bjørnstad, Slowpho, Flunk and Athome Project are all set to perform at the London Jazz Festival during November. The Norwegian presence is strong and varied this year, ranging from ethnic sounds and understated lyricism to free improvised avant-rock and cutting edge electronica.

Ketil Bjørnstad

Next week marks the beginning of the London Jazz Festival, and as in earlier years, Norwegian performers are well represented on the festival’s roster.

The festival’s opening night features one of Norway’s best known and most respected ethnic/world/crossover artists; Mari Boine. One of the Sami people’s foremost musical ambassadors, her career spans nearly two decades and several acclaimed releases. The ancient, shamanistic, musical traditions of the Samis are given a modern twist on her latest album ”Eight Seasons” which was released on Universal last year. Her highly rhythmic songs are rooted in a wordless, vocal style, incorporating influences of jazz, rock and other ethnic elements. Boine’s unique fusion of ancient musical traditions and modern instruments and production techniques has earned her a considerable international audience.

Ketil Bjørnstad is a unique figure in the arts in Norway, recognised not only as an unusually well rounded musician but also as an essayist, writer of novels and poetry. It is against a literary background that the former ECM recording artist makes his Universal debut, Grace, with music he set to the lyrics by the English metaphysical poet, John Donne. Grace is an invitation for performers from widely different musical environments – this concert features as well as Ketil on piano, Anneli Drecker vocal, Jan Bang Live sampling and Sven Persson sound.

Compared to Bjørnstad, Scorch Trio is on the opposite side of the sonic spectrum. Fronted by Finnish guitar hero Raoul Björkenheim (of Krakatoa fame), this trio features one of Scandinavia’s strongest rhythm sections with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass and Paal Nilssen Love on drums and percussion. All-out improvisational avant-rock is what this trio offers the London audience.

Tromsø’s prime electronica label Beatservice Records makes its mark on the London nightlife at The Spitz. Slowpho, Flunk and Athome Project are all prime ambassadors of the thriving Norwegian electronica scene. Slowpho has been successful with their “Hi-fi sounds for young Norwegians” album which was released to wide critical acclaim in Norway last year. The duo has lately found an enthusiastic Japanese audience following the release of their album in the land of the rising sun. Flunk, whose downbeat melodic take on electronic music was well received in Norway, is these days focussing on USA. Flunk’s aptly titled “For sleepyheads only” album will this week see its release in USA on world-wide label Guidance Recordings. Athome Project is also a very happening act - his latest album saw its release in Norway last week. Genre-comparisons could be drawn to Germany’s nu-jazz scene with names like Jazzanova and Rainer Trüby popping up in one’s mind. All Beatservice acts perform as real live bands.

All in all, it’s a strong and varied Norwegian profile on this year’s London Jazz Festival.

For a complete listing of all Norwegian concerts at the festival, go to MIC’s event calendar.

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