REVIEW: Jan Garbarek Group at the Bodø Jazz Open in Norway

Jan Garbarek Group at the Bodø Jazz Open 2015
Photo Credit Henrik Dvergsdal

Jan Garbarek Group
(Stormen. Bodø Jazz Open 2015, 21 January. Review by Jonathan Carvell)


Founded in 2011, Bodø Jazz Open is an annual jazz festival which takes place surrounded by the spectacular scenery of northern Norway - the Northern Lights, mountains and sea. Bodø itself is a small city about a hundred miles within the Arctic Circle.The festival happens over the course of five days in January.

This year's Bodø Jazz Open began with a sold-out concert in the town’s brand-new concert hall, Stormen, from the Jan Garbarek Group, and what better way to celebrate this beautiful hall (opened only a few months ago) than with the Garbarek’s first appearance in Bodø for some 15 years. Stormen is a fantastic venue – great clarity of sound, comfortable yet stylish, and also well integrated into the city.

The new Stormen concert hall, Bodø Jazz Open 2015
Photo Credit Henrik Dvergsdal

At 67 years old, Garbarek has been a big name in Norwegian jazz for almost five decades now, but he is someone who still seems keen to go outside of his comfort zone and explore new musical possibilities. Garbarek, as always, brought a broad palette of colours to the tone of his saxophone: sometimes saccharin sweet, other times more plaintive, and his complete technical control found him very much at home as leader of this genre-defying group.



Trilok Gurtu at the Bodø Jazz Open 2015
Photo Credit Henrik Dvergsdal

Trilok Gurtu was a revelation on drums and percussion, with virtuosic playing and a sophisticated fusion-style. Gurtu employed underwater gong sounds (yes, really), hanging spiral cymbals and created some outrageous grooves by playing kit with one hand and tabla with the other. There is something naturalistic and visceral about his approach, often striking the kit with his hands and - for large parts of this concert - vocalising rhythms on a headset mic (evoking thoughts of Airto Moreira).

Yuri Daniel also impressed with agile fretless bass work. During the course of the evening each member of the quartet had an extended solo, and Daniel’s centred on a Jaco-esque chord loop redolent of Portrait of Tracy - complex chords contrasted with passages of scalic fireworks. Rainer Brüninghaus completed the group on piano and keyboards, bringing in classical contrapuntal influences as well as the occasional 80s synth vibe.

All of these different styles were corralled by Garbarek, with Indian musical influences blending into 12/8 South African township grooves; sweet ballad resolutions quickly becoming unison prog romps. Some of the compositions were a little uneven, but the highs which resulted when everything clicked were spectacular.

This was a bold an exciting start to the festival and it was rightly met with a standing ovation by the capacity crowd.

LINKS: Review: Jan Garbarek Group at the Barbican 2010
Review: an Garbarek Group at the 2012 London Jazz Festival

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