The Jazz.com Blog
March 03, 2008 · 1 comment
Jazz.com's Stuart Nicholson sends us this update from the by:Larm music festival in Norway, an annual rock-pop event that opened its arms to jazz this year.T.G.
"By:Larm," or “city noise” in English, is a festival on the move. Each year it pops up in a different location in Norway such as Bergen, Trondheim, Tromsø or Stavanger. This year it was the turn of the capital city Oslo to host a celebration of up-coming Scandinavian musical talent. Normally a rock and pop event, it was decided on this occasion to indulge in a little social engineering and introduce jazz into the program.
But nobody made a big fuss about it. The “j” word was downplayed so that, among the 350 or so concerts spread over the three day event, bands like The Thing, Shining, Huntsville, Matto Molto and Yun Kan 5, all jazz ensembles, found themselves on the same bill as grunge bands and thrash rock acts.
“It’s great,” said Lise Gulbransen of the Oslo Jazz Festival, who along with Lars Kurverud and Edvard Askeland, acted as consultants for the jazz aspect of the program. “The response of audiences was very good indeed. A group of young rock fans said to me, ‘If this is jazz, then I like jazz.’ We’re trying to reach out to an audience that would not normally come to a jazz gig.” In an age of rigid music formatting, it was good to hear, a reminder of how jazz and rock co-existed in the 1960s, when Bill Graham might programme the Charles Lloyd Quartet (with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette) to open for the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore. Back then – unlike majority taste today – being a rock, indie or pop fan did not necessarily exclude the possibility of taking in a bit of jazz as well.
Even so, the organisers confessed to being a little nervous when The Thing took over the big stage at Oslo’s Rockafeller. How would an uncompromising free jazz group, with Mats Gustavsen on saxes, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaken on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, go down with a rock audience? Amid the flashing lights and dry ice, this power trio hooked the audience from the off. After a big ovation at the end of the show, I asked a couple of Norwegian rockers what they got out of the performance. “It was like thrash,” they all said, “a bit different, a bit weirder but really good. We’ve never heard anything like it!” So I asked them if they saw The Thing playing in Oslo again whether they would go and they nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah,” one said. “And we’ll bring our mates, they’d love this crazy stuff!”
Dipping in and out of the performances at venues around Oslo’s old marketplace, it was clear the strategy of mixing jazz into the rock program was working as audiences received the jazz concerts with a mixture of curiosity and interest. Some ensembles, such as the Shining, went right up to the doorstep of rock, others, like Matto Molto, with band-members ranging in age between 16 and 19, were able to connect with their peers. On the other hand, the Yun Kan 5, a band formed in Stockholm in 2003 featuring virtuoso saxophonist and composer Fredrik Ljungkvist, were pure jazz. But it didn’t seem to matter. The audiences were open and receptive.
And as if to prove jazz’s universality, a set by vocalist Beady Belle captivated the big audience in the Cosmopolite on the Friday night. An unannounced guest spot by Jamie Cullum brought the crowd to their feet and even won smiles from a group of leather jacketed rockers. Who says rock and pop fans don’t like jazz? And just to namecheck a few other bands who underlined the point: Lars Kurverud, Wildbirds and Peacedrums, Hilde Marie Kjersen, Karl Seglem, Valkyrien Allstars, Christian Wallumrød, Susanna and Farmer’s Market.
But by:Larm is not just about the diversity of the music it presents. Professionals from all over Scandinavia descend on the festival as much for the concerts by night as the high quality of its seminar program during the day. With four simultaneous presentations from dawn (well it seemed like it) to dusk each day dealing with topics as varied as marketing, publishing, digital distribution, the impact of the Internet on music and viral marketing, A4 notepaper was being consumed at a rate that probably devoured an acre of Scandinavian pine forest each day.
So after three days of seminars and concerts it was interesting to look around at the late night audience in the DogA as Huntsville, touted as one of the leading young ensembles in Norwegian jazz, wound up the final festival set. Everyone, it seemed, had that glazed expression marathon runners adopt as they approach the finish line, a mixture of relief and exhaustion. It had, after all, been a remarkable event.
This blog entry posted by Stuart Nicholson