That all of the great European jazz music being made today solely resides at ECM Records would be as foolish a thought as thinking that smooth jazz artists, by following the dictates of their record company executives in scaling down the music, haven’t created their own current misfortunes. The proof for the second part of that statement resides at the dismantling of smooth jazz radio stations nationwide, while the proof of the first part lies in the new release by Norwegian saxophonist Karl Seglem, Norskjazz.no (Norwegian Jazz Now).
Seglem, a saxophonist, composer and poet, joins forces with the Eple Trio on this resplendently beautiful collection of acoustic jazz gems, his 25th recording. As Seglem points out in the liner notes, "The Norwegian jazz community has a far more conservative focus than people seem to realize." Think of that statement only in terms of tempos employed because the intricate interplay between all four of the musicians on this recording is as compelling as the most brilliant work by Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, himself and his bandmates the prime example of how closely jazz musicians come together to work out subtle motivic conceptualizations in building the greater good.
The seven pieces, five of them Seglem originals, all unfold in their own manner and in their own time. "Aret Hallar," a traditional Norwegian melody, opens with a wonderfully emotional bass solo by Sigurd Hole. His mournful slides and bow work on the double bass sets up Seglem’s tenor saxophone perfectly. The feeling these two musicians put into expressing the inexpressible is further amplified by Andreas Ulvo’s following piano solo. With use of only toms by Jonas Howden Sjovaag on drums, the ensemble comes in tutti to fulfill the promise of the opening solos. That the tempo is, like the other pieces on the disc, slow, only amplifies how carefully each of the musicians is intricately locked into subtle cues given by their bandmates. For example, when Seglem goes into the upper register as he builds his solo, both terms of excitement and energy, the band kicks in so strongly behind him you actually feel the force in your bones and that they do so in such a seamless manner will have you going back over this track many many times reveling in their collective spirit of the moment.
All of the tracks on this incredible disc are just as incredible as "Aret." "Song For To" is deceptively simple with the piano and saxophone doubling each other, until you realize how the wonderfully Sjovaag and Hole accompany and embellish on the melodic statements. "Portugalsong," on the other hand, is made the more perfect in how each of the musicians comes to the table with just a small piece of the puzzle as the Gestalt principal plays itself out perfectly. This disc is absolutely incredible and is required listening for those wishing to capture a snapshot of how, in many ways, European jazz, particularly Northern European jazz, has moved into its own and, in some ways, beyond American jazz.