In May 2022, Espen Berg Trio are releasing their fourth album on Odin Records. Fjære [Tide] consists of seven new compositions by Berg and was recorded during a time where being together has been difficult. As a counterweight to this and as a symbol of togetherness and friendship, the trio has invited three guests artists for the first time: Mathias Eick (trumpet), Hanna Paulsberg (sax) and Silje Nergaard (vocal).
release date: 03.09.2021 via Odin Records
“A wide spanning debut that makes the most of Hanna Paulsberg’s blistering sax over a riotous rhythm section seemingly battling severe ADHD. Flukten’s lovelier side surfaces amid Klovning’s mellow guitar ruminations, while sideways nods to Per Johansson and Paul Motion complete a thrillingly uneasy listen.”
★ ★ ★ ★
release date: April 2, 2020 via ODIN
Fasten your seat belt, please. Get ready for the full tilt, barely tamed, beautiful monster that is Gard Nilssen’s sixteen-piece Supersonic Orchestra. Audacious and experimental, like everything the Norwegian drummer and composer touches, Supersonic flouts convention and, in particular, realigns the longstanding relationship between pre-composition and improvisation in orchestral jazz. If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours, its debut, was recorded live at the adventurous Molde International Jazz Festival in 2019, where Nilssen was Artist in Residence. The band’s uniquely configured, all-star lineup features three drummers, three double bassists and ten horn players, most of them saxophonists.
Fourth recording from young saxophonist and the leader of Norwegian quartet Hanna Paulsberg, brings some new inspirations. To me equally interesting is a dedication of the record to Pharoah Hatshepsut, which these days when the world is ruled by weak and false male hypocrites and the women need to fight for their rights again, has a special meaning.
Like them back in time Hatshepsut had to fight for her independence and respect, what sadly shows that despite so called civilisation the humanity goes in circles over and over through the same gender wars. But let’s get back to the music.
Paulsberg’s inspirations, unlike most of the other Scandinavian players are not taking that much from the folklore but heading back towards an American source and as a natural extension, back to their African roots. This project in particular shows that concept.
An opening Scent of Soil starts with a lovely intro, doubled with the harmony created by the choir of musicians in short choruses. Leadingbass line and holding melody piano are both creating a canvas for that slowly opening piece, where Hanna together with the special guest, trumpeter Magnus Broo holding the melody together solo or in lovely unisons. It brings the intensity of the late Alice Coltrane recordings with a spiritual twist hidden between the lines, but also with very vivid trumpeter’s solos a contemplative nature, Jon Hassel alike.
Another track, Serriana has similar harmonic richness but with more figurative appearance of the brass, audible when melody is passed by from one musician to another and then held back in circles.
Little Big Saxophone coming after is a different creation. Piano and rhythm section is waving the framework for high brass flights. Here is where intense double lines from sax and trumpet are dialoguing with percussive piano chops. Again, Broo’s presence seems to be a great idea giving a band departure from the sound which we are remembering them for from the past recordings. This Brass Fantasy brings to the memories Lester Bowie’s conversations with Hamiet Bluiett, but in a different register of course.
Hemulen Tar Ferie is my favourite piece from that recording, possibly because it comes in its onomatopoeic approach as close to my beloved an Art Ensemble of Chicago or AACM sound in general. It is most intuitive track with a lot of invention developed from all the band members and holding into simple and beautiful melody in the same time.
Title tune is the One about her. It has that nomadic feeling, with the drummer creating a Caravan alike feeling on rides with bassist chopping intervals and laying the groove in the same time. Sax lines are very pretty here, very Coltrane-esque in their simplicity and they had been executed. Lovely straight notes, not a lot of thrill, which had been left for trumpet to bring. Duets of both instruments are brushing a clear view for the subject with no doubts or foggy feeling.
Closing Bouncing with Flower Buds, is again bringing a post AACM aesthetics with lots of freedom given to the rhythm and articulation allowing musicians to elevate their voice in the mutual tissue into a different level of the conversation. Lovely piece which I admire a lot. Phenomenal recording all together.
The 20th album, and just before the 20th anniversary! The legendary wonder orchestra, dining out of a seemingly inexhaustible pool of madly talented academic musicians under the direction of the renowned Norwegian bassist OLE MORTEN VÅGAN (MOTIF).
Ever since Jan Garbarek put Norwegian jazz on the map in the late 1980s, and even more so after the international success of his rigorously ascetic Officium in 1994, the music has acquired a reputation for being, if not entirely lacking in passion, then for being, at least, emotionally detached. More recently, with the emergence of a new generation of Norwegian musicians aligned with the electronica movement, the country’s jazz has, justly or unjustly, acquired a parallel reputation for being obsessed with technology and overly self-referential.
Norwegian release 29.03.2018
International release 08.06.18
A bigger breakthrough
The jazz trio format is tried and tested and has become one of the basic ensemble formats of modern jazz. Here is a trio that has its feet planted firmly within the tradition, but still offers something unique to the listener. The Espen Berg Trio made its mark with the group’s first album, “Mønster”, in 2015. The trio was referred to as “the biggest and most important musical discovery in the first half of 2016” by Jazz Japan, and they have toured extensively in Japan, where they have also signed a recording contract. Now the trio is back, with a striking and elegant new album that very possibly will be an even bigger breakthrough for the trio. This is a group that is positively overflowing with talent and musical enthusiasm.