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Bendik Hofseth: Sax and All That

Publisert: 09/25/2002 av Jostein Pedersen


A man and a sax have to contend with many myths and prejudices, in combination and individually. Bendik Hofseth (34) has overcome them all. He is perhaps half way through his career, but has already experienced enough to fill two or three artists' lives.

Bendik (113x113)

His instrument is the sax, the source of his composing, singing and playing and, most difficult of all, his role as a searching homo ludens. With the instrument in front of him and the music inside him, he has been everything from celebrated child prodigy to pop star to respected jazz musician.

Bendik Hofseth started at the top. The jazz rock ensemble Steps Ahead (address: the most prominent recording studios in the USA) needed a replacement for their leading artist, Michael Brecker. The student of classical composition from Oslo had hopefully submitted a demo tape and dreamed in quiet moments of one day being able to attend a concert by his heroes. They wanted him to join them!

Hearing Bendik Hofseth has always been like opening a bag of sweets, full of assorted delicacies. You recognise the taste of chocolate, but can't get enough of all the other new, exciting, underlying, lingering flavours. His compositions were included on the Steps Ahead record N.Y.C. and laid the foundations for his solo career. He decided to begin with the figure nine.

On his debut IX (Nine), he researched and systematised all the music inside him. He played games and music through nine melodies about archaeological excavations in Afghanistan, the nine muses of Greek mythology, Hero's nine inventions, Copernicus' planetary system, Goethe's colour theory and Søren Kierkegaard's nine houses in Copenhagen, ending up with a nine-course meal on the composer's kitchen table. And when an aficionado of classical authors like Dante and Joyce feels the need to communicate, music is made.

Or he writes himself, including a short story that can be read forwards in Norwegian and backwards in English:
“Red neon go or give” = “Evig ro og noen der” (eternal peace and someone there). He is not a pretentious introvert but a sophisticated pop soloist whose motto is: “You know you don't understand everything but think it's fine anyway”.

Sony Music launched him worldwide, and from the back seat of all the airport limos he called all the days that passed “life”. On Amuse Yourself, he allowed himself another theme-oriented excursion combined with unpretentious pop. In this case his concern is the hermit who isolates himself in order to emerge renewed. True enough, a picture of himself as he continued to tour with Steps Ahead, was soloist with Norwegian symphony orchestras, wrote theatre music and felt alien in most environments. And that makes a different kind of music.

metamorphoses on the Verve label was like returning to the sweetie bag where all the flavours tempt you through the chocolate jazz coating. He used tradition to squeeze out his new creations. Here we find all the genres, including atonal Norwegian folk music, from a composing musician who masters not only his profession but also the difficult art of communication. He points this out frequently; where other composers must wait for years to have their works performed by an orchestra, he can do it immediately and go on searching.

You also sense years of musical development, after having gone through the typical Norwegian school of allowing yourself to be inspired by non-Norwegian music, managing to cultivate what foreigners appreciate, namely the Norwegianness of the expression. Surviving as a soloist in a small market like Norway means giving and giving all the time, without being able to set the premises yourself. One of the lingering flavours after metamorphoses is that his back is straight and his self-respect regained.
Plants, nature and temporal matters are the theme of Bendik Hofseth's Planets, Rivers ... and IKEA, where the Swedish furniture chain becomes the symbol of our trivial materialism. And here once again - the sweetie bag which overflows with appetising flavours and seductive variety. Half way through his career, perhaps only Tibetan overtone song is missing. But some flavours must be reserved for the next half.

Translation: Virginia Siger ©
Printed in the music magazine Listen to Norway, Vol.5 - 1997 No. 1

Related persons:

Bendik Hofseth

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