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Haftor Medboe / Jacob Karlzon

Haftor Medboe / Jacob Karlzon EP


by Ian Mann

April 21, 2019

/ EP

Medboe and Karlzon have established an intimate, ego-less rapport. An air of zen like serenity infuses all the performances here.

Haftor Medboe / Jacob Karlzon

“Haftor Medboe / Jacob Karlzon EP”

(Copperfly Records CAT001)

Here’s a bit of a novelty for the Jazzmann. I think it’s the first time that I’ve reviewed a ten inch vinyl EP for the site.

Featuring four original compositions this recording is the work of the duo of guitarist Haftor Medboe and pianist Jacob Karlzon and is available as a limited edition EP, part of a run of 250, or as a digital download. It appears on Medboe’s own imprint, Copperfly Records.

Born in Norway but based in Scotland Medboe is an old friend of the Jazzmann and in 2010 I reviewed his then current album “New;Happy” plus the later EP “A Box Of Monkeys”. My account of these two recordings can be read here;

Medboe rather dropped of my radar following that impressive album release but a glance at his website reveals that he has been far from idle since, recording several albums for different labels, usually in the company of other Scandinavian musicians, among them trumpeter Gunnar Halle, pianist Espen Eriksen, bassist Eva Malling and drummer Benita Haastrup.
He is also part of the trio The Will Of The People featuring bass clarinet specialist Pete Furniss and drummer Tom Bancroft, with whom he is due to release an album on Copperfly Records later in 2019. Besides his recording work Medboe is also an acclaimed educator and is an Associate Professor of Music at Edinburgh’s Napier University.

Swedish pianist Jacob Karlzon is perhaps best known for his work accompanying the singers Viktoria Tolstoy and Silje Nergaard. He has appeared on several of Tolstoy’s albums, also acting in the capacity of arranger. An accomplished piano soloist he has also worked with trombonist Nils Landgren, drummer Billy Cobham, vocalist Norma Winstone and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. He was also part of the ACT label ‘supergroup’  the Baltic Gang led by Polish violinist Adam Baldych and featuring  saxophonist Marius Neset, trumpeter Verneri Pohjola,, bassist Lars Danielsson and drummer Morten Lund.

As a leader Karlzon has released eleven albums under his own name in a variety of formats and line ups and is currently the leader of a trio, JK3, featuring bassist Morten Ramsbol and drummer Rasmus Kihlberg. His music draws inspiration from a variety of musical genres including jazz, folk, metal and electronica. A frequent award winner in his native land he is also an accredited Steinway Artist.

Medboe and Karlzon first met at the Islay Jazz Festival in the Scottish Hebrides some fifteen years ago and this collaboration has thus had a lengthy gestation period. The material on this EP was first premièred at the 2018 Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival and subsequently documented at Castlesound Studios, Pencaitland by recording engineer Garry Boyle.

The music on this EP places the focus strongly on melody, drawing on Scandinavian jazz and folk traditions with the duo naming pianists Jan Johansson, Tord Gustavsen and Esbjorn Svensson as sources of inspiration.

The interplay between the two musicians is intimate and tightly focussed as epitomised by the opening “Hope”. Like much of the rest of the recording the mood of the piece is reflective and slightly melancholic, typically ‘Nordic’ if you will. Medboe and Karlzon pick out complementary melodic phrases, dovetailing gently. Nothing sounds forced or hurried, the mood of intimate conversation prevailing throughout, even when the sounds of strings and keys are enhanced with the subtlest soupçon of electronica, presumably courtesy of the guitarist’s FX pedals.

“Waiting” exhibits similar characteristics, continuing the air of gentle reflection as the pair again exchange melodic ideas, maintaining the mood established by the opener. There are some gorgeous melodic phrases here, occasionally reminiscent of Pat Metheny in his most intimate and reflective moments.

Flipping the ten inch disc we hear “Tranquil”, a title that neatly summarises the EP as whole. An air of zen like serenity infuses all the performances here, and none more so than on this piece, which gently glides past in the manner of petals drifting in a stream. The rounded warmth of Medboe’s guitar phrases contrasts well with Karlzon’s sparse chordal accompaniment and subtly glacial lead lines.

The closing “Return” finds the duo in a more effusive and expansive mood as they close this otherwise reflective recording on more of an upbeat note. The air of intimacy remains but there’s an essential air of joyousness about this final performance with Medboe’s tone again warm and conversational, but with a lithe inventiveness that is complemented by Karlzon’s free flowing piano solo, his most joyful and unfettered excursion of the set.

This duo project is scheduled to tour in the UK and Scandinavia later in 2019 and into 2020. One suspects that in live performance these intimate duets will acquire even greater depths of intimacy and nuance. Medboe and Karlzon have established an intimate, ego-less rapport that will be even more tangible in person than on disc, as admirable as this recording is. Something to look forward to.

The EP is available from;

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