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13. May. 2016

Spotlight On: The Nordic Scene

In the lead up to the 2016 edition of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Coastal Jazz asked various members of the jazz "family" to share their thoughts about artists who will perform at the festival. Today, Artistic Director Ken Pickering talks about the Nordic scene, its diversity, and its relationship to the Jazz Festival.

In recent years we’ve witnessed the rapid escalation of the Nordic zone (particularly Norway) to a leading position at the forefront of today’s global jazz scene as documented by labels including ECM, Jazzland, Hubro and Rune Grammofon.

In fact the roots of that scene go back a few decades – Norway’s first major international impact on the jazz scene occurred at the cusp of the 70’s when Jan Garbarek’s Quartet burst onto the scene with their first albums on ECM. An all star group by any standards:  each musician in that quartet - Terje Rypdal, Arild Andersen and Jon Christenson – went on to develop international careers of renown. 


Photo: Paolo Vinaccia, Arild Andersen, Tommy Smith

As a very young lad back in 1972 I was very fortunate to hear Garbarek’s fantastic trio in Berlin at the Total Music Meeting, right around the time that his Tryptykon (ECM) album with Arild Andersen and the legendary late Finnish drummer Edward Vesala was recorded. I heard a lot of great stuff live for the first time during that period.  Arild has gone on to become one of the most important bassists on the European scene. In those early days he also played with American greats Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, George Russell and Don Cherry.  He was featured on some great Sam Rivers sessions and worked with Paul Bley and Sheila Jordan. The 80’s brought collaborations with Kenny Wheeler, Paul Motian, Bill Frisell (to name a few) and the formation of the wonderful Norwegian quintet Masquelero that performed in Vancouver during those early days of Coastal Jazz. In the 2000’s Arild showed no signs of slowing down; continuing to work on a wide variety of projects but most importantly forming his trio with Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith and Italian (Norwegian based) drummer Paolo Vinaccia. Their albums on ECM are well worthy of investigation! We’re incredibly excited to host this amazing trio in the intimate confines of the Ironworks on June 30th.

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The Thing: Ingrebrigt Håker Flaten, Paal Nilssen-Love, Mats Gustafsson

 I first encountered fiery Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson back in the mid 90’s when he made his first visit to Vancouver (introduced to me by John Corbett) on a solo tour. That tour signaled his first encounter with Francois Houle in a solos and duos concert at an upstairs loft on Hastings St. Since those early days Mats has been a regular visitor to Vancouver with different groups and projects (Aaly Trio, Gush, Barry Guy, Ken Vandermark, Ice Hockey) including The Thing formed around 2000 with Norwegians Ingribrigt Håker Flaten (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums).  The Thing have recorded often over the past 15 years and have collaborated with such luminaries as Neneh Cherry, Joe McPhee and James Blood Ulmer. These three comprise one of the most intense riotous bands in this music.

The Thing: at the Ironworks on June 24th.


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Jarle Vespestad, Simin Tander, Tord Gustavsen (Photo: Øyvind Hjelemen)

Pianist Tord Gustavsen established a solid international with a series of releases for ECM beginning in 2003. His recent trio project with Afghan-German vocalist Simin Tander and long time musical partner, drummer Jarle Vespestad signals a change of direction. Still thoughtful in detail and execution the new repertoire explores the tradition of Norwegian church music in an unusual way, translating some of the hymns into Pashto and examining the space where Sufism and Christianity meet. There is magic to these Hymns and Visions. This concert takes place in Christ Church Cathedral on June 29th. Also, check out the conversation between Tord and Nou Dadoun at Tom Lee Music June 29 at 1pm.


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 Mats Eilertsen


A couple of years back we drove down to Seattle for a wonderful concert at Wayne Horvitz’s Royal Room in Seattle by the intensely meditative trio led by first call Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen. The trio has two gorgeous albums out on Hubro (Elegy and Sails Set) with Dutch pianist Harmen Fraanje and the fabulous Thomas Stronen on drums.  This show goes down at the Ironworks on June 27.

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The burning quartet Cortex fueled by top drummer Gard Nilssen rounds out the Norwegian program. Their first live album was released by Portugal’s Clean Feed label and has been on constant repeat in my world for months. Serious observers of the Nordic scene consider Cortex to be the heir apparent to Atomic (one of the top free bop and beyond style jazz bands in the Nordic world) - bassist Ola Høyer, trumpeter Thomas Johannson and saxophonist Kristoffer Berre complete this rollicking swing machine.

At the Downtown Jazz Georgia Stage on June 25.

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Completing the Nordic program is the collaboration between Swedish composer / pianist Mattias Risberg and Vancouver’s Francois Houle (clarinet). Mr. Risberg participated in our Swedish residency program last August and established a strong musical connection with Mr. Houle during their time together. Check out their music samples – some crazy ass new music. Anything is possible. The duo is also touring in Sweden in May so they’ll undoubtedly be well primed for their Vancouver gig.

At the Roundhouse Performance Centre on July 3rd.

Thanks to the Swedish Arts Grant Committee for supporting the residency program in Vancouver.

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