Rolf Kristensen: Invitation

Scandinavian combo sets out to make the GAS (oddly including Crystal Silence and Broadway Blues) relevant in 2022

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Norwegian guitarist Rolf Kristensen assembles no fewer than 20 musicians for his attempt to make the so-called Great American Songbook “relevant in 2022”.

Leaving aside the view that great songs are always relevant by definition and that the aforesaid songbook sometimes makes room for jazz standards as well as ditties from shows, movies and sundry other places, the charts selected include Chick Corea’s Crystal Silence and Ornette Coleman’s Broadway Blues. It might be a quibble, but the mythical GAS seems to need either a shake-out or a more secure point of entry.

Kristensen appears on all seven tracks, just four of which feature lyrics and singers to sing them, and he has a hand in all the arrangements. Jazz musicians refer to instrumental numbers as “songs”; but, come on! The album’s small irony lies in the concluding You Must Believe In Spring, a sweet and considered Kristensen solo abetted late and unnecessarily by Swedish bassist Jan Mathiasson.

Opposite that numerical reduction there’s a fair amount of over-arranging, which stifles Crystal Silence (guest guitarist Allen Hinds). From the Corea-Gary Burton version to John Oddo’s arrangement for Woody Herman, the tune has never been resistant to interpretation; but here it’s buried alive.

The album’s soft focus, relieved in the upbeat and instrumental Broadway Blues, infects the four super vocalists: Torun Erikson, Hilde Hefte, Kari Iveland and Hilde Norbakken. Only Iveland in Love For Sale is encouraged to allow its (sex-worker) lyrics to display some colour. Hefte’s late scatting on Blue In Green is a dreamy offshoot of Meredith D’Ambrosio’s lyrics; Eriksen, like Hefte in hers, displays the almost whispered sonority encouraged by the arrangement of I’ll Be Seeing You, though the sentiments are more positive than is suggested; and Norbakken does the same on Invitation.

It’s all well-intentioned but a bit insipid.

Discography
Blue In Green; I’ll Be Seeing You; Invitation; Broadway Blues; Love For Sale; Crystal Silence; You Must Believe In Spring (37.25)
Kristensen, Allen Hinds (g); Bernt Moen (p, kyb, syn); Bjørn Rønnekleiv (cl); Jan Mathiasson, Håvard Henriksen (b); Jango Nilsen (d); and others. Kristiansand, Norway, September 2019 – June 2021.
Losen Records LOS 270-2