Listening to……Michael Aadal Group

Though it may have passed many of you by, I am here to inform you that the last 10 years has seen an incredible outpouring of talent from the Scandinavian Jazz scene, and from Norway in particular.  This has always really mystified me; after all I lived over there for quite a while in the 80’s and although there was a defined Norwegian Jazz ‘scene’, it really boiled down to 4 musicians – Jan Garbarek, Arild Andersen, Jon Christensen and Terje Rypdal, who – collectively and individually – were busy making a series of brilliant records for the German ECM label.  In those days, ECM seemed to record half of its albums in Oslo, which also raised the national profile somewhat, but there was little to suggest that there would be this wild explosion of talent in the 90’s and 00’s such as we have seen.  Jaga Jazzist, Supersilent, Tord Gustavsen, The Core, Jacob Young, Mathias Eick, Susannah & the Magical Orchestra and Eivind Aarset – these are just a  few of Norway’s stellar contributions to a currently vibrant European Jazz scene.

And now suddenly, there are more…..

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Michael Aadal is a young guitarist from Kristiansand in the extreme south of Norway and he and his band (Ole-Bjørn Talstad – piano, Gunnar Sæter – drums, Anders Hofstad Sørås – pedal steel, Audun Ramo – double bass  & Andre Kassen – saxophone) have produced a hugely impressive new album with nine self-penned tracks  in ‘Desertion’  (2009) on the intriguingly-named Ponca Jazz label.

The influences are clear enough – Aadal has clearly listened to many ECM albums himself and particularly to the work of Pat Metheny & John Abercrombie, but the use of Sørås’ pedal steel also evokes Brian Blade’s original Fellowship band and other New York luminaries like David Binney and Kurt Rosenwinkel.  Despite all this, the band are more than the sum of their influences -and ‘Desertion’ features some memorable tracks, such as ‘Boundaries’, ‘Mirage’ and ‘Where are we going?’

As far as I know this is the Aadal group’s first recording, in which case it’s astonishingly assured.  A Third Wave of Norwegian jazz now seems to be emerging and if it’s all as good as this, then the future is bright indeed.

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