Arve Henriksen - king of the place

The Norwegian trumpet player Arve Henriksen plays the lead when a specially commissioned concert opens Scene Norway, the mini festival held to the inaugurate London’s new creative centre Kings Place.

Arve Henriksen - Punkt 06 (Foto: Jan-Olav Glette)

It is somewhat difficult to get a clear notion in advance of the character of this concert, as all involved parties have a taste for improvisation, but one thing is clear; the music will unfold around soloist Henriksen and his one-of-a-kind trumpet sound. The official program states that Iain Bellamy and Jan Bang have written commissioned pieces. However, we learn from Arve Henriksen that this is only partially true and that much of the concert will take the form of a symbiosis of more improvised pieces of music.

-Jan was supposed to write something, says Arve, but he simply didn’t have the time, so we opted for a plan B using a module-based version of music written by Peter Thornquist. Jan will still contribute, but the material he brings along will be more open for spontaneous interpretation. It will probably be something from our Cartography record.
Cartography is Arve Henriksen’s solo debut on ECM. Produced by Jan Bang and Erik Honoré, it was released in October to brilliant reviews in Norway. It features recordings taken from different times and places, among them performances at the Norwegian Punkt festival in 2005 and 2006. Started in 2004, this festival, which is the brainchild of Bang and Honoré, has become a key event for contemporary improvised music. In many ways Punkt is actually the key to what will take place at Kings Place during Scene Norway, not just because a visiting edition of the festival will wrap up the event, but also because it is the spirit of Punkt and not least the people involved with it that are at the forefront of the special Norwe­gian feature in London.

-Even the opening concert will be inspired by the same spirit, says Hen­riksen, -meaning that a lot of musical and personal interconnections will be allowed to play out and that the format is going to be open. The musi­cal sections provided by Bang and Thornquist are going to be very open-ended I think, while the main piece, which is specially written by Iain Bellamy, is more composed even if that too might allow for improvisation. It is a short piece, only about fifteen minutes, but I am very excited about it. First of all because the occasion is so special and I am the soloist, but also because Iain’s commissioned piece will be a kind of reunion of our old band FOOD, where I played with him and Thomas Strønen. At Kings Place the three of us will be on stage together, along with five members of the London Sinfonietta. I have to say that I’m very honoured to be playing with that fantastic ensemble again.
Two years ago Henriksen played with a larger version of the Sinfonietta at the Leeds Music Festival. Interestingly, the piece they performed there was the full version of Thornquist’s Crossing Images, the very same piece that will feature in modular excerpts at the Kings Place opening concert.
-The whole concert will be a symbiosis says Henriksen, of people, instru­ments and pieces of music. It may sound haphazard, but I think much of the point is that the music can be shaped underway, i.e. that it comes about spontaneously in an open room. The kind of musical concept that we will be showcasing in London has a lot to do with the background of the involved people and a common conception of music. More specifi­cally, it has to do with a stylistic direction within jazz and world music. I think this is what Fiona Talkington, wants to showcase and emphasise with this festival.
Henriksen goes on to explain that the common conception of music has a lot to do with what he calls a stylistic basis.

-People like Jon Hassel, Brian Eno and David Sylvian are important fig­ures in this context. It is all about a view of music that has developed from the remixing revolution of the late nineties: the focus is on processing and modification, and thereby on improvisation as the basis for composing. It is like entering a musical laboratory, very scientific and creative at the same time. Personally I think it is great way of working with music, and the concept, which is perhaps most clearly articulated with the Punkt festival in Norway, is really catching on now. It is a forward-looking clarification of the remix concept.

Henriksen’s main slot at Scene Norway is the opening concert of course, but he will also take part in the Punkt UK feature that closes the festival a week later.
- Primarily I’ll play a live set with the Cartography band, which means me, Morten Qvenild, Jan Bang, Erik Honoré and Eivind Aarset. But I’ll contrib­ute to a remix or two as well.

Those familiar with Henriksen’s unique trumpet tone and his idiosyncratic vocal technique will know something of what to expect at Kings Place. On the other hand, not knowing what to expect is the pretty much the essence of the conception of music that Arve Henriksen, Bellamy, Bang and the others stand for. So, at Scene Norway one should perhaps be prepared for the unexpected and be ready to enter into a musical labora­tory.

Album: ‘Cartography’ (ECM 2008)

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