Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Hanna Paulsberg Concept

Song For Josia


by Ian Mann

June 24, 2014


This second album confirms Paulsberg's status as a significant saxophone soloist and a highly accomplished composer and bandleader.

Hanna Paulsberg Concept

“Song For Josia”

(Ora Fonogram OF 058)

Now aged twenty six Hanna Paulsberg is a talented saxophonist and composer from Norway and a graduate of the famous Jazz Course at Trondheim Conservatoire. It was during the completion of her studies that she met the members of her working quartet, the Hanna Paulsberg Concept, with the group’s 2012 album for Ora Fonogram “Waltz For Lilli” representing a stunning début recording which is reviewed elsewhere on this site. Paulsberg was joined by her countrymen Trygve Waldemar Fiske (double bass) and Hans Hulbaekmo (drums) plus Swedish born pianist Oscar Gronberg with the same line up present for this follow up which also features Paulsberg’s compositions exclusively.

The first Concept album helped to establish Paulsberg as a significant presence on the Norwegian jazz scene and beyond. She has recently been heard alongside her compatriot Marius Neset as a member of the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra that graces Neset’s latest release for ACT Records “Lion"and has also been touring Europe with him. She and Hulbaekmo are also members of Torstein Exspress, a quartet led by trumpeter Torstein Lavik Larsen.

“Waltz For Lilli” revealed Paulsberg to be immersed in the American jazz tradition, albeit putting a European slant on the music via the use of folk like melodies. She cites the Miles Davis Sextet and the Wayne Shorter Quartet as key influences on her group’s sound and for me the spirit of John Coltrane is also present in her music. Thus the Concept sound is more conventional in jazz terms than that of many of their Norwegian contemporaries (many of whom display a conscious eclecticism and a strong rock influence) but is none the worse for that.  Recorded over the course of three intense days at the Ora studio in Trondheim the group aspired to deliver a natural, organic sound with a feel similar to that of a live gig, an aim which they achieve admirably.

“Song For Josia” (like its predecessor the title appears to be a dedication to a family member) consolidates Waltz For Lilli’s success with Paulsberg arguably sounding more Coltrane like than ever. The opening “Frygia” introduces her big, powerful tenor sound on a loosely structured modal style piece that encourages group interaction and also includes features for Fiske and Gronberg. The pianist is an imaginative soloist with a Keith Jarrett like tendency to sing along with his inventions.

“De Ensomme (The Lonely Ones)” reveals a more pensive side to the band as it develops from Gronberg’s piano ruminations, these occasionally punctuated by snippets of Fiske’s arco bass. Paulsberg initially adopts a softer, breathier tone but still sounds convincingly authoritative, particularly as the music grows in intensity based around a brief repeated motif that provides the jumping off point for a typically fluent Paulsberg tenor solo. 

“Diamond(ra)” is a genuine ballad with a beautifully tender tenor intro and a gently melodic bass solo. Gronberg’s piano feature begins in similarly lyrical fashion before probing deeper and providing the basis for a second, more assertive solo from Paulsberg.

The title track opens with an engaging dialogue between Paulsberg’s tenor and Hulbaekmo’s gently pattering drums, the latter sounding as if they are being played with bare hands. The drummer also impressed with his skills as a colourist on"Waltz For Lilli” and his subtly detailed playing is also a feature of the piano trio Moskus whose debt album is also reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann web pages. The opening dialogue eventually mutates into a kind of samba rhythm which provides the backdrop for a spirited, percussive piano solo from Gronberg, an agile bass feature for Fiske and a joyous tenor solo from the composer.

It’s possible that Heida Karine Johannesdottir Mobeck’s distinctive cover art may have provided the inspiration for the tune “Elephant Mist” -  or vice versa, obviously. In any event the tune itself is an attractive piece of post bop that develops from snatches of melody and strong grooves to embrace a pleasantly rambling piano solo from Gronberg followed by some of Paulsberg’s most forceful playing of the set. There’s also an extended feature for the excellent Hulbaekmo who produces a fascinating array of sounds from his kit.

“Coat Of Many Colours” is a gentle, abstract ballad centred around Paulsberg’s intimate dialogue with Gronberg as Hulbaekmo and Fiske provide the most subtle and understated of commentaries.

It’s the rhythm pairing that begin the closing “Hemulen”, a delightfully playful calypso style piece that suggests that Sonny Rollins should be added to the roll call of Paulsberg’s influences. There’s an airy jauntiness about this tune that is both infectious and irresistible. Gronberg’s piano and Hulbaekmo’s use of hand drums and cowbell imply a cheery sense of mischief that helps to ensure that the album ends on a breezy, cheerful note.

“Song For Josia” is an impressive second album from Hanna Paulsberg that confirms her status as a significant saxophone soloist and a highly accomplished composer and bandleader. She presents a varied programme but overall I feel the themes were probably slightly stronger on the band’s début.

Nonetheless Paulsberg is an emerging artist well worthy of the attention of the international jazz audience. “Song For Josia” has been very favourably reviewed by Mike Collins for London Jazz News and Peter Bacon for The Jazz Breakfast. Paulsberg and the Concept have played a small number of shows in the UK, most notably at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, as a result of the links between the Trondheim and Birmingham Conservatoires. She remains an artist I’d very much like to see in the event of any future visits to the UK. 

blog comments powered by Disqus