First issue of a serious canon of Norwegian jazz albums

MIC’s Norwegian branch Ballade, which is generally regarded the most thorough of Norwegian web-based music media, has developed a canonical list of Norwegian jazz albums. Enrolling more than a dozen of Norway’s most influential and august jazz critics, and having them produce a subjective ranking of the twenty most important albums –which were then computed into a single list - has resulted in a non-definitive but illuminating catalogue, according to Ballade’s editor.

Saxofonillustrasjon (Norsk Jazzforum)

Eligible records had to meet at least one of the following criteria:
-Norwegian band-leader
-Released under a Norwegian name
- In the case of bands/ensembles being credited as composer, a majority of the members must be Norwegian.

We here bring you an abridged version of the list the way it was published in the course of last week, limiting album details to only the top ten and further descriptions to the first five places. We enumerate the albums in reversed order.

20: Østerdalsmusikk - Østerdalsmusikk (1975)
19: Bleak House - Terje Rypdal (1968)
18: Bikini Tapes – Atomic (2004)
17: Duplex Ride - Sidsel Endresen, Bugge Wesseltoft (1997)
16: Live In Molde - Chick Corea, Trondheim Jazzorkester (2000)
15: Friends - Kapstad-Johansen Quartet (1980)
14: Sagn - Arild Andersen (1990)
13: It Don’t Come Easy - Radka Toneff (1979)
12: Feet Music – Atomic (2001)
11: Chaser - Terje Rypdal (1985)

10: Jøkleba! - Balke Jørgensen KleiveJøkleba 1992

Jøkleba! - Balke Jørgensen Kleive
Recorded: 1992
Label: CD - Norsk Plateproduksjon IDCD 32

Jon Balke – keyboards, percussion, vocals
Per Jørgensen – guitar, percussion, trumpet, vocals
Audun Kleive – drums, keyboards, percussion, vocals

9: How Long Has This Been Going On - Bjarne NeremBjarne Nerem: How Long Has This Been Going On 1971

How Long Has This Been Going On - Bjarne Nerem
Recorded: 1971
Label: LP - Odeon 062 34320/CD - Gemini CD 72

Bjarne Nerem – tenor saxophone
Lars Arvinder – violin
Sten Carlberg – guitar
Anders Dahl – violin
Olle Gustafsson – cello
Rolf Larsson – piano
Rune Larsson – guitar
Sture Nordin – bass
Lars Sjösten – piano
Rolf Svensson – drums
Harry Teike – violin
Kjell Öhman – organ

Listen to and download the album here:

8: Winter Poem - Radka ToneffRadka Toneff: Winter Poem 1977

Winter Poem - Radka Toneff
Recorded: 1977
Label: LP - Zarepta - Sonet 1439/CD - Verve 843 412-2

Radka Toneff – vocals
Arild Solum - violin
Per Stenseth – violin
Anne-Britt Sævig – cello
Eivind Ådland – violin
Alf Årdal – violin
Arild Andersen – bass
Jon Christensen – drums
Tora Dugstad – violin
Jon Eberson – guitar
Øyvind Ekorness – cello
Jørn Halbakken – violin
Tove Halbakken – violin
Lars Jansson – piano
Johan-Otto Johnasen – violin
Juliana Kjartansdottir – violin
Renata Molinari – violin
Knut Riisnæs – tenor saxophone

7: Witchi-Tai-To - Jan Garbarek Bobo Stenson QuartetJan Garbarek / Bobo Stenson Quartet: Witchi-Tai-To 1973

Witchi-Tai-To - Jan Garbarek Bobo Stenson Quartet
Recorded: 1973
Label: ECM Records 1041

Jan Garbarek – soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
Bobo Stenson – piano
Palle Danielsson – bass
Jon Christensen – drums

6: Plastic Sun - Svein Finnerud TrioSvein Finnerud Trio: Plastic Sun 1970

Plastic Sun - Svein Finnerud Trio
Recorded: 1970
Label: LP - Sonet SLP 1406/CD - Odin NJCD 4054-2

Svein Finnerud – piano
Espen Rud – drums
Bjørnar Andresen – bass

Listen to and download the album here:

5: Some Other Spring - Karin Krog & Dexter GordonKarin Krog / Dexter Gordon: Some Other Spring 1970

Some Other Spring - Karin Krog & Dexter Gordon
Recorded: 1970
Label: LP - Sonet SLP 1407/CD - Storyville STCD 4045/Meantime Records MR10

Karin Krog – vocals
Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen – bass
Espen Rud – drums
Dexter Gordon – tenor saxophone, vocals
Kenny Drew – organ, piano

Karin Krog (b.1937) embarked on her career in the middle of the 50s and she is considered one of Norway’s foremost jazz singers. Krogh has touched upon many different styles and constellations, and has a long list of achievements that includes album of the year in Japan in 1970 for this record, the Buddy award in 1965 and the Norwegian Grammy in 1970. Throughout the 70s Krogh was in fixed bands with renowned musicians, and since the late 70s she started working in various duo- formats. Most notable of the3se is probably the cooperation with John Surman, where Krogh developed and furthered the use of electronic vocal techniques. They received the Norwegian Grammy for the album Bluesand in 1999.

4: Masqualero - MasqualeroMasqualero 1983

Masqualero - Masqualero
Recorded: 1983
Label: LP - Odin LP 08/CD - Odin CD 4008

Arild Andersen – bass
Jon Balke – keyboards
Tore Brunborg – soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
Jon Christensen – drums
Nils Petter Molvær – trumpet

Masqualero was a genre crossing band from its inception in 1982. This is the band’s debut, which won them the Norwegian Grammy in 1983. A prize they also won in 1986 for Band a Part, and in 1991 for Re-Enter. These albums were all released by ECM. Jon Balke left the band mid way in its ten-year lifespan. He was temporarily replaced by guitarist Frode Alnæs.

Listen to and download the album here:

3: Fairytales - Radka Toneff Steve DobrogoszRadka Toneff / Steve Dobrogosz: Fairytales 1979

Fairytales - Radka Toneff Steve Dobrogosz
Recorded: 1979 – 1982
Label: LP/CD - Odin 03

Radka Toneff – vocals
Steve Dobrogosz – piano

Toneff released two albums with among others bassist Arild Andersen and guitarist Jon Ebesron, both of which feature on this list in their own right. But it is the duo-format collaboration with the Swedish-American pianist Steve Dobrogosz she is best remembered for. The album was recorded in The Grieg Hall in Bergen. It displays Toneff as one of the most expressive jazz singers in Norway. Fairytales brought Toneff a degree of commercial success that was unusual for a jazz performer.

Listen to and download the album here:

2: Khmer - Nils Petter MolværNils Petter Molvær: Khmer 1997

Khmer - Nils Petter Molvær
Recorded: 1996 – 1997
label: ECM Records 1560

Nils Petter Molvær – trumpet, bass, guitar, percussion
Rune Arnesen – drums
Audun Erlien – bass
Ulf W. Holand – samples
Roger Ludvigsen – guitar, percussion
Morten Mølster – guitar
Reidar Skår – electronics

Nils Petter Molvær (b.1960) has been a member of several bands, written commissioned works and film music, and he has received several awards. This album won the Norwegian Grammy in the open category ion 1997 -a feat repeated in 2000 with the album Solid Ether. Molvær’s first record in his own name won him international acclaim and an international audience, and with the Khmer-comcept he toured extensively in Europe and North America. Khmer was hailed as revolutionary for its fusion of electronic music and jazz.

1: Afric Pepperbird - Jan Garbarek QuartetJan Garbarek: Afric Pepperbird 1970

Afric Pepperbird - Jan Garbarek Quartet
recorded: 1970
label: ECM Records 1007

Jan Garbarek – Baritone saxophone, clarinett, flute, percusiion, tenor saxophone
Jon Christensen – drums, percussion
Terje Rypdal – guitar, trumpet
Arild Andersen – bass, percussion, thumb-piano

Review excerpts:

Karen Frivik – “Enopening and experimental phase of jazz in Norway: Infernal creativity in combination with humour and faith in the future.”

Jan Granlie – “Innovative -it still sounds novel when one sits down to listen to it: The start of something great.”

Arild R. Andersen – ”Garbarek displayed an interest in free expression and set a standard that was to happen in Norway thirty years later."

This was the third album released in Jan Garbarek’s name. On Afric Pepperbird the quartet plays own-compositions exclusively, and the credits are shared between Garbarek, Andersen and Christensen. Reviews of the album emphasised on Garbarek’s Coltrane/Albert Ayler/ Ornette Colemmann-like qualities. The album was the first Norwegian record to be released by the German label ECM, and it is also sound engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug’s first recording for this label.

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