Friday, August 31, 2012
Reviewed by: Ian Mann
“Extended Corner” represents an intriguing piece of work and there is some excellent ensemble playing and soloing from this bunch of talented young Norwegians.
(DADA Records 8 CD)
This album was forwarded to me by Fringe Magnetic vocalist Elisabeth Nygard who appears on the recording as part of a ten piece ensemble led by Norwegian trumpeter and composer Didrik Ingvaldsen.
Like Nygard Ingvaldsen studied in England and graduated from Leeds College of Music before going on to study at the Juilliard and Mannes College schools of music New York. He has worked extensively with leading Norwegian, British and American musicians and recorded a number of albums in a variety of settings on his own DADA record label.
“Extended Corner” is an extension of Ingvadsen’s acclaimed quintet Pocket Corner featuring Glenn Brun Henriksen (alto sax), Vidar Schanche (guitar), Mikaell Olsson (bass) and Stale Birkeland (drums). The quintet has released two successful albums “4010- Local Time” (2009) and “Dog & Moon” (2011). In December 2011 decided to expand the group to create a ten piece jazz orchestra with the addition of Nygard (vocals), pianist Oyvind G. Dale and the additional horns of Arild Hoem (alto sax), Inge Breistein (tenor sax) and Dominique Brackeva (trombone). Ingvaldsen wrote all the compositions and arrangements for the new project with English lyrics provided by Julie-Marie Sundal. With this recording already in the can Extended Orchestra publicly debuted this music at the Maijazz Festival in Stavanger in May 2012.
The involvement of Nygard invites the obvious comparisons with her UK band Fringe Magnetic. There are many similarities, both bands are led by trumpeters, in Fringe Magnetic’s case the excellent Rory Simmons who also composes all the music for that group. Both feature similar numbers of musicians and produce music that combines jazz instrumentation and arrangements with the traditions of European art song, in the UK it’s a style that has its roots in the work of Michael Garrick with singer Norma Winstone in the 1960’s/70’s. However where Simmons uses strings and clarinets to create a unique ensemble sound Extended Corner deploys a more orthodox jazz instrumentation and the result is a more robust sound with some spirited instrumental solos. Fringe Magnetic is more concerned with texture and the overall ensemble sound but both approaches are equally valid.
“Extended Corner” the album begins with “Carnival” which begins with an art song intro featuring Nygard’s flexible vocals before mutating into a free wheeling central section featuring racing horn lines and Dale’s jagged Keith Tippett style piano runs. A sense of woozy dissonance increasingly infiltrates the piece courtesy of Schanche’s guitar atmospherics and Nygard’s wordless vocals. An intriguing, frequently thrilling start.
“Slowly” is an intimate relationship song, the lyrics set among fractured, broken phrases and rhythms, a little like something from Brecht and Weill. Ingvaldsen himself delivers the main instrumental solo and reveals himself to be highly competent and expressive trumpeter, here making use of smears and slurs to telling effect. He worked with Dave Douglas in New York but his playing is also strongly rooted in the European/Nordic tradition.
The more upbeat “Morn” features strong contributions from Brackeva on trombone and Dale at the piano alongside Nygard. “Moving” puts the emphasis more firmly on alto saxophonist Glenn Brun Henriksen and there’s some rousing, turbulent playing here.
“Pride” puts more focus on singer Nygard’s emotive, highly flexible Bjork like, vocal but also features an excellent piano solo from the consistently interesting Dale, here adopting a more conventional and lyrical approach.
The instrumental “Gallinejas” opens with Olsson’s powerfully plucked double bass above scratchy guitar and the breathy growling and fluttering of horns. As the title suggests the piece has an almost flamenco feel with Dale again taking a major solo. Here, as elsewhere, Ingvaldsen’s arrangement embraces a wilful dissonance with blaring horns and a degree of electronic distortion courtesy of Schanche.
This element is carried over into the free-wheeling intro of the following “Kyss”before the coolness of Nygard’s voice temporarily douses the flames prior to a probing alto sax solo by Arild Hoem and a propulsive big band passage augmented by Schanche’s guitar FX.
“Fried Fish” is a song of two halves, the first chilled and ethereal in the best Nordic tradition with Nygard’s eerie vocal whisperings teamed with glacial guitar shimmerings and ghostly electronica.The second half begins as a Brechtian romp from which Schanche’s delightfully unhinged, rock influenced guitar eventually emerges flanked by squalling horns fronted by Brun Henriksen on alto. It’s thrilling stuff that sounds as if King Crimson have suddenly gate crashed the party.
“Nice” features the leader’s blazing trumpet and Nygard’s voice within a slightly more orthodox song framework. However in Ingvaldsen’s sound world the conventional course is seldom followed. There’s an air of tightly controlled chaos about much of Extended Corner’s music.
As the title suggests “Oh!” is rather more playful than some of the other items on the album with a humorous lyric, a rousing sax solo from tenorist Inge Breistein and passages of almost conventional big band swing. Extended Corner’s music may flirt with darkness but there’s also a sense of fun and adventure in many of the arrangements. This is emphasised further on the closing “Da-Tia-Tiaa” a melange of big band pastiche complete with scat vocals, free improv passages and wigged out electronica, presumably courtesy of Schanche.
“Extended Corner” represents an intriguing piece of work and there is some excellent ensemble work and soloing from this bunch of talented young Norwegians. Ingvaldsen’s compositions are inventive, imaginative and cliché free and although the resultant music can be intense and challenging it is still well worth a listen. Like Simmons in Fringe Magnetic Ingvaldsen is quite prepared to keep a relatively low profile and to concentrate on the overall ensemble sound. Dale and Schanche arguably emerge as the most distinctive instrumentalists.
As for Nygard her voice is supremely flexible with Ingvaldsen sometimes deploying it almost as another instrument. I don’t intend to try and second guess Sundal’s lyrics, most of the pieces seem to be oblique “relationship” songs and with no press release or lyric sheet provided I’ll leave the subject of interpretation open. In any event with Nygard’s voice constantly pushing the boundaries she is an essential part of the musical landscape rather than just a purveyor of words.
JAZZ MANN FEATURES
The sun shines on the final day of an excellent festival.
Ian Mann soaks up the vibes at Cheltenham Jazz Festival.