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Niklas Bjarnehäll
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GASON CD 729 [67:44]




Askeladd (Bjarnehäll) [6:11]
African Marketplace (Dollar Brand) [3:09]
Oktober (Gjeslnes-Bjarnehäll-Skjellbreid) [5:04]
Herre Gud, Ditt Dyre Navn Og Ære (Trad-Reiersrud) [2:25]
Vitae Lux (Alnæs-Dyrhaug-Antonsen) [3:06]
Bliv Kvar Hos Mig/Safari (William Henry Monk- Bjarnehäll) [6:44]
Madagaskar (Bjarnehäll) [2:39)
Icicles (Anne Grethe Preus) [5:28]
Whoza Mtwana (Dollar Brand) [5:34]
Elegi (Rolf Wallin) [3:23]
Jesus, Det Eneste, Helligste, Reneste (Christian Sinding) [3:37]
På Det Store Hav Me Siglar/Om Nogen Ont Meg Vil (Trad) [6:11]
Landkjenning (Iver Kleive) [5:40]
Den Ensomme Veien (Dagsland-McGurk) [4:48]
The Wedding (Dollar Brand)
Odd Inge Gjelsnes (trumpet)
Geir Antinsen (trombone)
Niklas Bjarnehäll (piano)
Rec. 20-23 June, 2005, Gävle Konserthus, Norway

This record came as a delightful surprise to me. I had never before heard of Trio Askeladd, and this appears to be the group’s first recording. It is the kind of utterly idiosyncratic music which eludes conventional categories but which immediately convinces one as being entirely true to the sensibilities of the performers, as being music played with absolute honesty and belief.

Trio Askeladd’s instrumental make-up is in itself distinctive; the combination of two brass instruments and piano is not a common one. Of the three musicians, trumpeter Odd Inge Gjelsnes and trombonist Geir Antinsen chiefly work, so far as I have been able to discover, in the symphonic world – Antinsen, for example, is a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Stockholm. Pianist Niklas Bjarnehäll seems to spend more time working on the jazz scene.

Their music, when they get together as Trio Askeladd, is grounded in the traditions of Norwegian hymns and psalms, and Norwegian folk music. To this they add an evident fascination with South African music, especially as represented in the compositions of the great South African pianist Dollar Brand (also known as Abdullah Ibrahim), music indebted both to the jazz tradition of Ellington and Monk and to the township music of South Africa. Norwegian hymn tunes, jazz, and South African music sound like a pretty unlikely three in a bed, but they are fused here to quite glorious effect.

Unflamboyantly improvising on their materials, treating their themes respectfully in terms of harmony and significance alike, Trio Askeladd create music which has considerable gravity, but is quite without undue solemnity; music full of attractive melodies and capable of sudden bursts of infectious joy. They bring out the stately beauty of some of the traditional themes which they use and give to them a sense of loving personal involvement, so that there is no clash between traditional themes and their improvisations, which seem to grow entirely organically out of the older musical materials.

Not that Trio Askeladd confines itself to traditional (or jazz) materials. The lovely ‘Icicles’ is a composition by Anne Grete Preus, Norwegian guitarist, singer and composer (and possessor of a distinctive husky voice!), whose work, like that of so many Norwegian musicians seems to straddle conventional boundaries – the familiar categories of rock and jazz, world music, classical music or whatever, often seem to have little substance in contemporary Norwegian music and this present CD is a fine example of how musically fruitful that attitude can be.

Askeladd is a character who appears in Norwegian fairy tales; he is the youngest of three brothers, whose quiet intelligence triumphs where his cockier older brothers fails. Trio Askeladd are unassuming in their approach, but in their musical intelligence and honesty they do great things. Very warmly recommended.

Glyn Pursglove


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