Hedvig Mollestad: Weejuns

The queen of goth-jazz, with organ and drums, meditates on open-ended improvisations variously recalling Hendrix and Tony Williams' Lifetime

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Hedwig Mollestad’s previous album, the critically acclaimed Maternity Beat (Rune Grammofon, 2022) recorded with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, marked an alternative direction for the Norwegian guitarist, her regular trio recordings, with Ellen Brekken on bass and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad on drums, temporarily put on hold. Like Miles Davis, Mollestad likes to ring the changes and this was the case with Tempest Revisited (Rune Grammofon, 2021) and Ekhidna (Rune Grammofon, 2020), both albums recruiting different personnel.

Now she’s trying a new line-up with Elephant9 and Supersilent’s Ståle Storløkken on organ and synthesizer and ex-Brute Force and COKKO drummer Ole Mofjell. Although the trio’s collective name on this debut album is nominally Weejuns, it’s still undoubtedly Mollestad’s gig. Whilst technically a double album (on vinyl), it’s also released as a download and a single, albeit full-length, CD.

The first half of the lengthy Hug That Tree is reminiscent of Voodoo Chile from Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland (Track, 1968). The second segment is dominated by a blistering guitar vamp underpinned by furious Larry Young-like organ fills before an attention-grabbing ritardando amidst swirling echoey guitar. Indeed, there are obvious similarities between Weejuns and Tony Williams’ original Lifetime trio but Mollestad’s approach is rather more subtle and infused with a chiaroscuro feel.

The ironically titled I’ll Give You Twentyone (it’s actually twenty-one minutes in duration) opens with a ghostly soundscape that gradually transmutes into a heavier foray, punctuated by crackling drums and Mollestad’s soaring legato guitar lines. It wraps up with a simmering guitar hook over which Storløkken solos.

On the electrifying Stay At Your Peril, with a theme first heard briefly on the opener, Mollestad heart-stoppingly wrings out every conceivable permutation stemming from an ostinato motif. It’s a free-flowing performance that should surely consolidate her position at the very top of the jazz-rock guitarists’ tree.

The content of the album derives from live recordings of concerts that took place in 2022 at venues in Oslo and Stavanger. Four of the six tracks are from their very first concert which serves to reflect how extraordinarily cohesively these three musicians meld.


Discography
Go At Your Peril; Come Monday; Hug That Tree!; I´ll Give You Twentyone; Stay At Your Peril; Pity The City (79.45)
Mollestad (elg); Ståle Storløkken (org, syn); Ole Mofjell (d). Oslo & Stavanger, 2022.
Rune Grammofon RCD2232