Review: Nils Petter Molvær and Tord Knudsen at Kings Place (EFG London Jazz Festival)

Nils Petter Molvær
Photo credit: Thea Gunnes / Royal Norwegian Embassy

Nils Petter Molvær and Tord Knudsen
(First day of Scene Norway 2 Weekend. Hall One, Kings Place. 15th November 2013. Review by Rob Edgar)

Tonight was definitely a lesson in organicism, all the constituent parts contributing to the whole. It was the first concert of Fiona Talkington's Scene Norway 2 festival at Kings Place (in conjunction with the EFG London Jazz Festival) and featured an inspired pairing of trumpeter (and ambassador for Norwegian jazz) Nils Petter Molvær and visual artist Tord Knudsen. They played a completely improvised set: Molvær playing trumpet (with electronics) and Knudsen reacting to the music, improvising the visuals on a screen at the back of the stage.

It began, with Molvær – alone on stage – playing a long melody: at times pentatonic, mixed with modal phrases with a dry, quiet breathy tone punctuated by smatterings of reverb or delay before the pulse came in: electronic loops with changing resonances, the trumpet similarly manipulated with wah-wah and reverb. Ideas tapered off and were lost into the echoic distance.

Norwegians are proud of their achievements as recyclers and the concert reflected this: Molvær's riffs and concepts were recorded and looped to form the backing of the new material he was playing. His use of delay allowed his trumpet to become a polyphonic instrument: the lines he was playing became verticalised; resounding as a chord.

The visuals were engrossing too, warm colours complemented the reflective playing of the trumpet, concentric circles were at the forefront with outlines – captured as he played - of Molvær appearing in deep orange, freezing the moment in time before splintering away to form new shapes. There was a striking moment when distortion was added to trumpet and the note was divided into frequencies that were forced close together creating an uncomfortable pulsing, and the visuals suddenly changed from oranges and blues into greys and blacks. As the music became more subdued, shoots of white light started to rise up from the bottom of the screen before it became immersed in a deep blue hue.

It ended with Molvær right back where he began: long, contemplative phrases, breaking and cracking like the voice of someone either terribly scared or incredibly sad. It ended with repeated long notes fading into the distance before the stillness was shattered by enthusiastic acclamation.

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