Øra Phonogram: OF179

Martin Myhre Olsen: saxophones; Kjetil A. Mulelid: piano, synthesizer; Simon Olderskog Albertsen: drums; Bàður Reinert Poulsen: bass
Adrian Løseth Waade: violin; Tore Brunborg: tenor saxophone; Lars Horntveth: bass clarinet, steel guitar; Kyrre Laastad: vibraphone, percussion, electronics.
Recorded 15th August 2020 by Ingar Hunskaar at Oslo Jazz Festival and November 6th 2020 by Simen Scharning at Nasjonal Jazzscene

Of the nine tracks on this album, only 5, 8, 9 feature the quartet – the rest bring in the host of guest musicians who complement and expand Wako’s familiar mix of exuberant experimentalism.  In particular, Waade’s violin and Horntveth’s steel guitar create rich dynamics that respond spectacularly to the invention and panache of Wako’s playing.

The set draws heavily on last year’s ‘Wako’ album (tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 , 8) – two of the other tracks (4, 9) are drawn from 2018’s ‘Urolige Sinn’ (track 3 is a short piano solo that Mulelid cleverly uses to link the longer tunes of ‘Hele verden er en boble’ and ‘En liten halvtime senere’).  That the set leans of the recent album is not surprising as the recording was made during their tour to promote that album. But, of course, the tour was curtailed – ironically, it was November 6th (the date of the second recording here) that saw Norway enter a second lockdown.

Opening with ‘Le Tapis Volant’ (the flying carpet) the band draws the listener in with repeated chords that, like a pulse or breathing, have their own gentle rhythm, with the piano offering colouration.  As the piece progress, the chords become discordant and the piano runs more frenetic.  So, like the best of Wako, the listener is lulled into a false sense of security and all manner of melodic and rhythmic high-jinx are let loose. Of course, the piece closes as it opens, either as recognition of the joke or to disguise it.  And this sense of playful interaction with the audience is never far from the performance.  ‘Hele verden en boble’, which follows, allows Mulelid full flow, with Albersten drumming up a storm before the saxes begin their own battle.  Like much of the set, this piece swings and rocks with vibrancy, pulling all of the instruments into a maelstrom of sound.  It’s always a good sign of a live gig when there is a slight pause between the piece ending and the audience bursting into applause, as if they need to adjust to reality before realising what has just hit them.  And this happens plenty on this lively and enjoyable set.