Losen Records: New Norwegian Sounds
The Rainbow Band Sessions started out as pure fun and not as a recording project, but Kongshaug's decision to document the sessions was a wise choice. The album shows a range of superior Norwegian musicians playing modern sophisticated big band music that swings into the 21st century.
There's a long way from John Surman's full-blown sheets of sound to the understated chamber-jazz of trumpeter Hildegunn Øiseth on Stillness, but the two albums have one thing in common: they would most likely not have seen existence without the involvement of master engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug. He actively insisted on her recording in his Rainbow Studio and helped finding the right musicians, but it is still Øiseth who sits in the producer's chair.
As the title suggests, Stillness is a meditative album and shows Øiseth in various settings: duo, trio and quartet, using the line-up of pianists Eyolf Dale and Torbjørn Dyrud, bassist Mats Eilertsenand drummer Paul Motian, he gets into a close dialog with the trumpeter whose soft spacious tone sings throughout the whole album.
Stillness is an album that grows organically and finds the players entering their place in the music with poetic sensibility. The music has a haiku-like simplicity and beauty, which is underlined by the cover photo taken by Odd Gjelsnes that shows a lone tree. In the same way that the photo singles out an ordinary tree that could belong in any forest, Øiseth finds a melodic line and surrounds it with stillness so the music glows and emerges like a bas- relief.
Losen Records has many excellent instrumentalists and the label especially boosts an array of impressive guitarists, who know how to navigate in many genres and play with technical mastery and deep sensitivity. One of them is Frank Kvinge, who has both released an album of Brazilian music and a duo record with singer Synnøve Rognlien.
Kvinge is an attentive listener and sideman, who has played with many people and explored genres from country and blues to rock, jazz and world music. Arctic Skyway (Losen Records, 2010) offers the chance to hear him in a solo setting where the focus is on his original compositions and the sound of wood and steel.
Kvinge has lived and studied in America for many years and his knowledge of folk, country and jazz is evident in his free flowing compositions. His technique on the acoustic guitar is almost frightening and his use of advanced harmonies, slap technique, complicated scales and quick fret runs could easily have turned into empty pyrotechnics, but fortunately, like fellow string artist Alex de Grassi, Kvinge uses his impressive technique in service of his musical narratives that retain a basic and pure emotionality. There is also an irresistible sense of melody, as shown in "Hey Baby, Hey."
"Frank's Tango" underlines his effortless mastery of several genres. Kvinge can play everything from a tango and a wedding waltz to classical lieder and deep and dusty blues. He is indeed a musical citizen of the world, but somehow all the different expressions unite in his personal style that is both playful, emotional and technically advanced.
Another eclectic guitarist on Losen Records is Christer Fredriksen. The title of his album Urban Country underlines the composite nature of his work. Two different worlds are brought together: the sophisticated pulse of the city and the pastoral beauty of the country.
Fredriksen's stylistic breadth is shown in his choice of repertoire. He is equally at home playing Duke Ellington's classic "In A sentimental Mood" and arranging a Frederic Chopin piano piece for guitar. On the former, he stretches the tones and lets the guitar echo into the horizon while bassist Audun Ramo provides a spare accompaniment. The latter sees him sticking close to the melody that is played with a slightly distorted tone while Ramo plays with bow.