Tag Archives: CD review

Rune Klakegg & Scheen Jazzorkester – “Fjon”.

Despite what is clearly a long and illustrious career in Norway, I’m not aware of having heard Rune Klakegg before; which is a pity. Fjon, a CD of his compositions (and one cover) recorded by the large ensemble he set up, is full of rewarding large scale arrangements.

The obvious comparisons are to both Gil Evans and Maria Schneider: the instrumentation and orchestration allow similarly rich, evocative arrangements. Indeed, it was reading of the similarities to Evans and Schneider that first drew my attention to this record. And if you’re going to be influenced, they’re very good influences to have! There’re are also sections which brought to mind some of the work Colin Towns has done with both the HR and NDR big bands.

The brass sounds deep and rich; the saxes crying and plaintive. Rob Waring guests on vibraphone, a voice often lacking from a big band setting – it can sometimes sound lost in the context of an orchestra – but here it is a great addition. The arrangements leave space for both vibes and piano, rather than competing with them.

The one cover is Klakegg’s arrangement of Henry Mancini’s Moon River, with vocals by another guest, Nina Gromstad (who performs with Klakegg in one of his small bands, Lush Life). It is a dark, dislocated arrangement, in parts deconstructed. The vocal is taken pretty straight, but set against the orchestra has even more of a yearning, mournful tone than usual. Klalegg’s solo is disjointed and quirky, as if Monk were tackling the tune..

Klakegg’s tunes have a similar quality: rich and dark; slightly out of kilter, with a touch of melancholic wistfulness. The Evans-like opener, Achille, is a tribute to Debussy, and there are other nods to classical music on the CD, too. The sleeve notes say “fjon” could translate as “snow flurries”; these melodies, though sometimes melting, liner a lot longer. All in all, it’s a collection of lovely music.,

Verneri Pohjola: Bullhorn.

I haven’t really reviewed CDs on this blog, sticking largely to live events and their photographs, but I have been doing occasional reviews of new releases on LondonJazz blog, and I must have found my way onto the mailing list at Edition Records, because, unexpectedly and unrequested, they sent me a copy of  Pohjola’s CD, Bullhorn.

Which was very kind of them.

And knowing absolutely nothing about Pohjola – I’d never even heard of him – I gave it a play. I’m a bit worried that Edition Records’ PR person has hacked my iPod or something, because I like it a lot. I mean, I like it an awful lot. It is frankly right up my street, and it’s worrying that had it not been for their foresight I might have missed it entirely.

For those as ignorant as me, Pohjola is a Finnish trumpet player, and this is his third record. Consisting mostly of a quartet of trumpet, piano, bass and drums, they are joined on several tracks by tenor saxophone. Whilst the liner notes state that the music steer[s] clear of any hackneyed notion of ‘Nordic’ jazz there is a very north European feel to the CD: I kept being reminded of Guy Barker’s contribution to Tommy Smith’s mid 1990s recordings and Colin Steele’s releases.

But there is also a certain simplicity about the music. It seems stripped back – there is a lot of space, Pohjola’s trumpet often backed by simple rhythmic patterns on drums and bass. There aren’t any post-bop histrionics – lots of great playing, but the tunes are uncluttered.

The occasional addition of tenor saxophone changes the tone slightly and adds more depth, and the closing number, aptly named The End Is Nigh, has tenor, trombone and cello in an evocative, simple arrangement to reinforce the sound.

So this CD was surprising. I was surprised to receive it, surprised by the music – and surprised how quickly it worked its way into my favourite records.

(Anyone else who wants to send me a CD, please feel free. But I can’t promise to like it!)