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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Motif - Facienda (Jazzland, 2011) ***½

By Stef

The Norwegian jazz scene is without a doubt one of the most vibrant in Europe, with musicians climbing to international recognition due to their combination of instrumental skills and creative voice. And the latter is no doubt the most important in art : you may like them or not, but Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, Nils Petter Molvaer, Bugge Wesseltoft, Frode Gjerstad, Terje Isungset, Trygve Seim, Ståle Storløkken, Ingar Zach and many more, have all created quite different, yet very distinct sounds, and even new musical subgenres within the jazz tradition, but very often going beyond that, always with maturity and intelligence. And I emphasise the creative aspect : letting us hear new and innovative approaches, rather than destructive noise.

The Norwegian band Motif is part of this creative stream. They describe their own music as "a sound that echoes the acoustic outings of Miles Davis, the structures of Ligeti, and the electronic collage of Aphex Twin", which is not always easy to recognise on this triple album.

The band is led by Ole Morten Vågan on bass, Eivind Lønning on trumpet, Atle Nymo on saxophone, Håvard Wiik on piano, and Håkon Mjåset Johansen on drums. On the second and third volumes, Petter Vågan joins on guitar and Ola Kvernberg on violin. The band's former trumpeter Mathias Eick joins on the third volume.

The music is composed, with discernible themes and structures, beautifully arranged, often slow to mid-tempo, and could mostly be categorised as mainstream jazz with exuberant soloing, but then you have pieces like "The Korean Barbecue Smokeout", which is crazy, or "Seksten" which is more explorative.

Without having the energy and power of their fellow countrymen of Atomic, Motif manages to bring a very strong album, and one that will appeal to a broader audience of jazz fans.

Listen to Apo Calypso

© stef


joesh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joesh said...

Hi Stef - I was just writing a review of this one also, seems you're one step ahead of me.

Anyhow just to add in a little information for the readers. CDs 2 and 3 are live recordings. Ole Morten Vagan (whose band it is) told me :

"The box covers the end of the quintet with Mathias, which was 2008 more or less, and the rise of the new and more open quintet with Eivind Lønning, and also our 10-year anniversary projects, featuring some of our friends like Håkon Kornstad, Mathias Ståhl, Ola Kvernberg and others."

I found that the 1st CD (the present group) was excellent and requires close listening. The use of different extended techniques of the new trumpet player Eivind Lønning adds a lot to the music. CD 2 has an extended line which includes guitar/lap steel guitar and violin on a couple of tracks, making for a different sound and direction. CD 3 is the band live in Molde (2007). Probably the biggest fault here is there's just too much material for most people, but what the heck I enjoyed it!

I'd give it easily 4 stars.

Stef said...

Joe, no problem to post your review alongside it. More opinions give better insights.


joesh said...

I liked your review and besides that my version is long and sprawling, like the album. Yours is nice and short and gets straight to the point of what's on the album.

I also agree with the Atomic comparison the difference for me being that Atomic's themes are really catchy .... is that possible in such music?! Motif (or rather Ole Morten Vagan) writes in a style which at first doesn't seem so memorable (and less direct), however the music has many little ideas that bit by bit one starts to really discover another world inside the music.

Anyway that's my 3 cents worth ;-).

Maybe see you at one of the Nate Wooley concerts?

KennyB said...

This album requires a lot of [close] listening to fully grasp and, even then, still shows new things with each consecutive listening. Yes, it's a lot material but each CD is quite different from the others while still maintaining the Motif feel. I wouldn't hesitate to give this album a full 5 STAR rating. Amazing album packed with very forward-thinking compositions that incorporate modern classical music within.