REVIEW: Arild Andersen (solo) plus Clive Bell + Mark Wastell at Cafe Oto

Arild Andersen
Photo from artist website


Arild Andersen (solo) plus Clive Bell + Mark Wastell
(Cafe Oto. 23 September 2017. Review by Sarah Chaplin)


Anyone who made their way down to Dalston last Saturday night was in for a rare treat. At the invitation of British percussionist Mark Wastell, Norway’s master bass player Arild Andersen was in town for one night only, performing with the aid of a loop station and an array of pedals, a set of entrancing folk tunes, the odd Keith Jarrett number, and some of Andersen’s originals, culminating with Hyperborean, an intoxicating yet mellow landscape of sustained bowed notes and lyrical interjections. Andersen proved that it’s possible to achieve a state of ‘interplay’ all by himself, channelling the spirit of his illustrious collaborators past and present, his animated body language as much a part of the improvisation as the commandingly rich sound of his acoustic bass.

Earlier in the day, I had the opportunity to interview Andersen, asking him to reflect on a career which now spans over half a century. Proudly self-taught, he regards the occasions when he played with the likes of Don Cherry, Sonny Rollins and Stan Getz as part of the fortuitous journey of a European session player, and seems to see his status as one of our most highly regarded composers and recording artists as circumstantial rather than a product of his own making.

Dismissing the moniker of ‘nordic jazz’ as a journalistic cliché, Andersen believes that the real Scandinavian contribution to jazz probably lies in the region’s commitment to democratic principles, which come through in the music as a genuine desire for all musicians to have an equal footing on stage. The outcome of de-emphasising the front man in Andersen’s case is a prolific and engaging back catalogue of albums, not only the ethereal and austere variety for the likes of ECM, but many of what Andersen calls ‘Friday night’ music (aka energetic live dates), where jazz personalities are entirely and appropriately sublimated by their wonderful material.

Pairing Arild Anderson’s solo set with a duo set from Clive Bell and Mark Wastell was an equally inspired move on Wastell’s part, as the hypnotic manoeuvrings of Bell’s various shakuhachis, with their soft bamboo tones and aeolian riffs, combined with Wastell’s armoury of toms, gongs and Tibetan bowls, produced a non-verbal conversation that would have arrested even the most hardened of souls.

At times, Cafe Oto’s location in one of London’s newest nightspots lent a rhythmic background thud to the proceedings, but it all added to the attraction of listening to music that is timeless and served to remind us that tempo and pulse isn’t everything.

A link to Sarah Chaplin's  interview with Arild Andersen will follow once it the interview is pubished.

Arild Andersen returns to the UK on 26th October: Blue Lamp in Aberdeen featuring Kirsten Bråten Berg.

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