Always renowned for experimentation, of merging his own Nordic jazz sensibilities with everything from South Asian intonations to techno and reggae, Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær now delivers the seemingly inevitable album of symphonic jazz.
For this project, he chose six of his best-known pieces to be given new life by a group of Norwegian arrangers, composers and electronic-music producers and then performed by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. But the result is not just jazz with strings, rather the use of a symphony orchestra as a multi-voiced instrument to infuse each piece with a renewed sense of freshness and adventure.
Thus Kakonita, originally recorded with just trumpet and keyboard for the Solid Ether set in 1999, is here enlarged with segments of either cavernous or soaring, dissonant strings, the added layers of sound enhancing Molvær’s fragile, exposed trumpet. Likewise, Maja (originally called Little Indian) is given the full fairy-tale treatment with the wind and brass sections rumbling ominously in the background like a big, lurking predator in the forest, while Simply So packs its own resonant punch.
The same goes for each of the six tracks, as they subtly expose the interplay between the intimate trumpet and the rich textures of the orchestra. Much of the credit for the overall sound must go to producer Jan Bang, who originally recorded the orchestra in the National Radio Studio in Oslo. He felt the sound could use more room, and so carefully arranged 76 speakers onstage at the Kilden Concert House, positioned exactly as the orchestra would have been seated onstage, and then re-amped the mixes and re-recorded the entire album in situ, taking full advantage of the large hall’s acoustics. This was a complex trick to pull off, but it does deliver “a completely different colour, a much bigger and spacious sound”, according to Molvær.
Yet despite the undoubted musical strengths of this set, I do have a slight reservation, for cushioning the trumpet with lush orchestration diminishes that fine lead voice and reduces its impact. Molvær’s music has always had an questioning edge to it, which I find lacking here. But this is a beautiful set, so I think I am basically just quibbling.
Maja; Sabkah; Icy Altitude; On Stream; Simply So; Kakonita (32.54)
Molvær (t); Kristen Isachsen, Even Sefenias Sigurdsen Frodesen Rosstad (programming); Peter Baden (d); Adam Rudolph (pc); Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Ingar Berby (cond). Oslo, c.2022.
Modern Recordings LC 95306