Last week I attended the JazzFest in Trondheim; it’s another very enjoyable European jazz festival in the beautiful city of Trondheim, which is situated on the fjords towards the north of Norway but some way below the Artic Circle. My main reason for being there was to look after the Birmingham students who were on the third leg of the annual Birmingham Trondheim Exchange.
This project involves the formation of three groups, usually quartets with two students each from the jazz courses in Birmingham and Trondheim. This year one of the groups was a quintet. The Norwegian students travel to Birmingham, and the groups meet and rehearse before playing two gigs in Birmingham and then travelling down to Cheltenham to play in the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Following this the Birmingham students travel to Trondheim for the JazzFest there, which this year conveniently started the day after the end of Cheltenham. They rejoin their Trondheim colleagues and develop a slightly longer set that is performed in one of the festival’s main venues.
The project has been going for nine years and it is a tribute to the skills and flexibility of the students that they can get together a short 25/30min set in just a couple of days. The gig in Cheltenham has become one of the highlights of the programme in the Parabola Arts Centre, the venue that focusses on the new and experimental, and is always well attended. It is also fascinating to observe the coming together of two different approaches to the music from the Trondheim and Birmingham students. This year there seemed to be a very pleasing unity in the groups and the music created was some of the best the Exchange has produced. Peter Slavid in his review of the Parabola programme commented that ‘I thought that this year the groups were well balanced and very creative’. His full review of the Parabola programme is here. Ian Mann also wrote a lengthy review, which you can read here.
It is invidious to name particular players, but I have to say that I was very impressed with the quintet that had an excellent drive generated by drummer Elias Tafjord and some impressive soloing by trumpeter Christos Stylianides and guitarist Magnus Skaug. In another group I enjoyed Vilde Aarke Lie’s vocals ably supported by some tasteful solos by saxophonist Harry Weir and pianist Havard Aufles. The group with Ask Rasmussen, sax, Aidan Pope, guitar, Georgia Wartel Collins, bass and Charlie Johnson was the most integrated.
Elsewhere in the festival I really enjoyed the set with the Trondheim Jazzorkestra playing with Chick Corea and performing arrangements of certain of his tunes. The Swedish Norwegian group Atomic played a powerful set showing how free playing can be integrated with compositions. Improvising saxophonist Mette Rasmussen played with the Norwegian noise group MoE in a very loud set in a very small room. It was fascinating to observe how Mette gradually managed to integrate her improvisations into the full on blasts of the MoE group. Zenos Mode is a student group from Trondheim with very impressive rap vocals from Malin Odegard.
Another very promising young group was Relling that combined high energy vocals with a strong playing from a trio with Hammond Organ, guitar and drums.