Trondheim Jazz Exchange

Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Jazz Festival

There is a lot of listening pleasure to be gained from witnessing some of the finest and most experienced jazz musicians from around the world performing, but there is equal pleasure to be gained from hearing and watching young players just starting out in this precarious and demanding art form called jazz.

For the fifth year students from Birmingham Conservatoire, just up the road, and Trondheim Conservatory, a lot further north in Norway, came together to form bands and to play new music. The musicians met last Wednesday, played their first gig on Thursday, played again in the Symphony Hall cafe bar free session on Friday and then here, before a jazz festival audience, at Saturday lunchtime.

First up were the conservatoire’s Harry Bolt on piano and Gwilym Jones on drums from Birmingham with Elizabeth Lid Trøen on tenor saxophone and Hallvard Gaardløs on bass from Trondheim; second were Jakub Valicek on drums and David Ferris on organ (Birm) with Maria Väli on vocals and Martin Lie Svendsen on guitar (Tron); third were Dan Searjeant on alto saxophone and Ben Muirhead on bass (Birm) with Kjetil André Mulelid on piano and Axel Skalstad on drums (Tron).

Each band had clearly quickly found a way of working together, and each had a strong and characterful sound. As the individual musicians were not announced at the start of each set, there was a fine game to be played deciding which were the Brits and which the Scandinavians. Sometimes it was pretty easy: look for someone slightly uncomfortable in their skin and preferring perhaps to pretend the audience was not there – they were British; look for those clearly, expressively and unselfconsciously enjoying themselves – they were not from these islands.

Of course all were accomplished players and some were quite outstanding. One previous participant in this scheme is saxophonist Hanna Paulsberg, whose CD I recently reviewed (see here) and who is on Marius Neset’s new album (see here). I wouldn’t be at all surprised to be reviewing an album by Kjetil André Mulelid or Axel Skalstad before very long. And sometimes these collaborations last beyond this Exchange week – the band ULV which has played in both countries first got together on a previous Trondheim Jazz Exchange. More about them here.

These events are not only brilliant experiences for the participating musicians, but are excellent for listeners too. Long may they continue.

Categories: Live review

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