Danish trombonist Lis Wessberg not only likes a good melody, but she also writes them! As an instrumentalist she has developed a strong, full toned and expressive sound on the trombone which is the perfect voice for delivering her vey individual and personal compositions.

At the time of writing, Lis is preparing to release her new album, Twain Walking, on 12th April on April Records and is also about to embark on a short tour of the UK under the auspices of the Sounds of Denmark alongside Karmen Rõivassepp and Nikolaj Hess & Carsten Dahl.

Taking time out of her busy schedule, Lis took time out to talk to Jazz Views about the new album and UK dates.

Your eagerly awaited new album Twain Walking is released on April Records on April 12. Can you tell us a little about the album and the influences and concept behind it?

TWAIN WALKING is my 2nd solo album, and I feel that the music reflects how we as a band have toured a lot and developed our sound over the 2 years that have passed since I released my first solo album Yellow Map.

Twain Walking is a concept I came across in a poem by Robert Frost. It’s about standing at different crossroads in life (TWAIN/two ways) and sometimes choosing the path less traveled. Taking chances and making your own decisions.

The album is quite different from your leader debut, Yellow Map although the same musicians play on both. How do you feel the band and your music has evolved in the time between the two recordings?

Because we, as a band, have toured a great deal, we have strengthened our collective musical expression into a very special “Yellow Map sound”. This has been very significant in relation to the compositions on TWAIN WALKING. It has been a completely different process to compose this time because I have written with this sound in my ears.

The one thing that is striking about both albums is the strength of the melodies, and the way that melody is emphasised above virtuoso solos. This can be unusual in jazz to take such a stringent approach, but one that seems to allow you freedom as a composer and an instrumentalist. Is this something that you constantly strive for in your compositions?

Yes – absolutely. When I compose, I am very focused on writing simple melodic themes that stand strong without the need for many other effects. I perceive my compositions as songs, and that is also why there are many ballads among my compositions.

Twain Walking has a strong rhythmic element to the compositions, even more so than on Yellow Map and the use of electronics has a different role too. Can you tell us how you have viewed the role of the electronics and approach to rhythm in your writing for the new album?

It is true that TWAIN WALKING includes several tracks with a solid rhythmic base that reflects my appreciation for listening to bands like Portishead, Massive Attack, and Talk Talk. I believe the reason this aspect is more prominent on TWAIN WALKING than on

YELLOW MAP is, as I mentioned earlier, the band has evolved our sound over the past two years. This evolution is evident in how we incorporate electronic elements, and TWAIN WALKING has undergone a more intensive production process, especially in the mixing phase.

Interestingly another departure is featuring a vocalist on the new album in Karmen Rõivassepp. Is working with lyrics and songs something that you are looking to do more of within your composing?

It has been a huge challenge to start writing songs and thereby lyrics. I have approached the task with great humility and have tremendous respect for all the great songwriters who have worked on this for many years. I am a total beginner in this field, but it will by no means be the last time I do it, and I really have a strong desire to develop in terms of writing lyrics.

Prior to the release of the Twain Walking, you will be appearing in the UK as part of the Sounds Of Denmark 2024 tour. I note that it is billed as ‘Yellow Map’ so I assume that you will playing music from your debut album. Will you also be able to present some of the music from the new recording too?

Yellow Map is not only the title of our first release but also the name of the band. The music we play at Pizza Express in London and Turner Sims in Southampton will primarily be from the new album, with a few exceptions where we play 2-3 songs from the Yellow Map album.

How did you become interested in playing the trombone, and how did get into playing jazz?

I started playing the piano at the age of 7 but I missed playing with others. My brother played the tuba in the local wind band, and I could see how much fun they were having together. I also wanted to join, but I could only become part of the orchestra if I agreed to play the trombone. So, it was a complete coincidence. Later, I started to play in a big band, and it was through this experience that my interest in jazz was born.

You cite some of your influences as Miles Davis, Curtis Fuller, along with Danish trombonist Erling Kroner, and trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg. While I can hear the influences of Miles and Curtis in the debut album, along with some big band arrangements, the new recording suggests more contemporary influences such as Palle and percussionist Marilyn Mazur. How do you feel that you have processed your early influences in finding your own individual voice that is so prominent on Twain Walking?

When I composed for the Yellow Map album, the band wasn’t assembled yet, and even though I knew who the musicians would be, I wasn’t prepared for the musical journey we would embark on as a band. I think that also reflects in my compositions on Yellow Map. Perhaps that’s why the music on Yellow Map is more inspired by the jazz of the ’60s than the music on TWAIN WALKING, which includes several trip-hop elements and a very ambient sound.

Palle Mikkelborg and Marilyn Mazur are huge artists in my eyes, and I am proud that you think you can hear inspiration from their musical universes. Luckily, I play regularly with Marilyn Mazur’s large orchestra SHAMANIA, which is a great inspiration to me.

And finally, plans for the future?

We are going to tour with the music from TWAIN WALKING, and I’m really looking forward to it. I already know that we are going to release our 3rd album in 2026, also on April Records, so I’ve already started thinking about that. It’s exciting to see what we come up with for the third time…

SOUNDS OF DENMARK 2024

19/3: PIZZAEXPRESS JAZZ CLUB, LONDON

Lis Wessberg ‘Yellow Map’

20/3: PIZZAEXPRESS JAZZ CLUB LONDON

Abekejser & Karmen Rõivassepp

20/3: TURNER SIMS, SOUTHAMPTON
Lis Wessberg ‘Yellow Map’

21/3: PIZZAEXPRESS JAZZ CLUB LONDON
Carsten Dahl & Nikolaj Hess
(Steinway 2-piano Festival)

For more information visit Sounds of Denmark 2024