The NOTCH Nordic-China music festival kicked off last Wednesday at the Rojam disco with some electro-pop and other synthesizer-laden grooves. The second night of the festival, also at Rojam, featured more ambient effects-based groups and group improvisation. The final show of the festival took place last night at JZ Club, featuring a solo saxophone performance as well as an impressive violin-bass-drums trio.
Rojam becomes a sit-down concert venue
We weren’t able to attend the Wednesday night concert ourselves, but had full reports from friends that it was fun. Unfortunately, as uplifting as much of the music was, most people chose to sit down on the floor or the stairs and enjoy the music in a stationary position. It was as though concert attendees felt this was serious music, not to be danced to under any circumstances.
In any case, music performed the next night was much less danceable so the sitting position seemed more appropriate. We did get to check out most of the Thursday night show before rushing off to work, and found most of it quite enjoyable. Bugge Wesseltoft, whose last show in Shanghai we missed, was a bit disappointing actually — the effects and loops were great but they were so slow in developing that we got bored. A recurring theme in the festival was the solo performance, which may be a Norwegian thing. Both Bugge (on keyboards/effects/loops) and guitarist Eivind Aarset had solo features that night that were on the long and slow side. Luckily, there was eventually some interaction among them when all five came together to build some deeper textures and grooves.
Then, Norway comes to JZ
Another solo performance started the JZ show Friday night, this time by reed player Hakon Kornstad. He is obviously quite talented on the horn, especially with his percussive style — but again solo things can only float our boat for limited amounts of time. We particularly dug his multi-tone skills, playing full chords on the tenor saxophone by using special blowing techniques. He also used loops and other electronic effects for his show, and got some special sounds out of his horns by switching the flute mouthpiece to the sax body and vice versa.
Playing the second part of Friday’s show was violinist Ola Kvernberg’s trio. This group was a lot of fun to check out and the music all had quite a new and original flavor. Some was quite evocative and eerie, and some was burning-fast bebop, and peppered in between was some odd-meter stuff. They were joined at the end by Hakon Kornstad on the saxophone for an extended tune reminiscent of Charles Mingus.