- Music Information Centre (Norway) - original
By: TOMAS LAUVLAND PETTERSEN
Industry news We don’t consider us as a jazz trio – we’re
more of an indie band says pianist of celebrated Norwegian trio In The
Country whose latest album “Losing Stones, Collecting Bones”
has garnered rave reviews at home and abroad. Now the trio gears up for
its appearance at by:Larm in Trondheim.
Indie, not jazz: With their second album “Losing
Stones, Collecting Bones”, piano trio In The Country have stunned
jazz critics and record buyers at home and abroad. ITC’s Morten
Qvenild (who’s also a crucial half of acclaimed duo Susanna &
The Magical Orchestra) doesn’t fear that the trio’s upcoming
by:Larm slot will come across as being out of context:
- I don’t really consider us a jazz trio – we look upon ourselves
much more as an indie-band, says the proficient pianist (and part-time
vocalist) who’s in the midst of a hectic domestic mini-tour when
MIC reaches him. - Playing by:Larm just feels right for us; we’re
much more into current Americana than, say, current American mainstream
jazz. It’s important to be present at by:Larm and to reach out to
an audience that would otherwise be hard get to in a traditional jazz-club
Qvenild looks forward to the trio’s Trondheim appearance: “We’ve
really enjoyed playing in Trondheim in the past and this probably won’t
be an exception. We’re hoping that we can create some kind of quiet
and secluded zone where people can escape from the bedlam of loud gigs
and hordes of people. The audience can expect a really dynamic gig that
spans from really delicate and hushed tunes to much more extrovert and
loud stuff. Our tunes have plenty of rock-references so the audience needs
not to fear being alienated by us!
Travels and exploration: In The Country is a trio that
takes its name from notions of out-of-town travels and home-turf exploration.
The members share a love for revisiting their own country, exploring mountain,
forest, coast and sea; sharing favourite places and spots with each other.
This mind-set is also defining for the music they make: Indifferent to
excess and grandeur -almost shy- the general orientation is rather one
of unhurried and honest clarity. This means narrowing down to musical
particulars and upholding tranquil simplicity rather than pushing limits
and excelling in performance. The characteristics of unhurried motion
and simple “cleansing” structures, with only few emphasized
details, do indeed bear similarities to experiences of nature or countryside.
It reminds one of the promise of enlightenment through simplicity and
it gives the music a character of what the New York Times in its recent
review of their latest album “Losing Stones, Collecting Bones,”
called translucent intimacy. This concept refers to the atmosphere of
internal coalescence that the music manifests: The record shows for itself
an exquisite kind of openness and freedom; a lightness to make music that
doesn’t prove anything, but simply reveals the honest musical conceptions
of the band.
The compositions are all written by Morten Qvenild, the pianist and driving
force behind the band. In The Country was formed by Qvenild, drummer Pål
Hausken and bassist Roger Arntzen in 2003 while they where all studying
at the National Academy of Music in Oslo. Though they are certainly a
band, it is nevertheless true that it is Qvenild’s musical visions
that are set forth. Involved in many different successful projects, In
The Country is his own creation, and it has been described as a kind of
musical self-interpretation. This refers to the fact that Qvenild is more
broadly oriented than most jazz pianists. As mentioned, he is more about
merging different general kinds of expression, drawing on genres outside
jazz and exploring that freedom, than he is in typical piano virtuosity.
Vocal inspiration: - For me it’s all about the
song really, says Qvenild. I draw most of my inspiration from great songwriters
such as Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and Ryan Adams and even if we write mostly
instrumental music it’s important that the melodies can be sung.
I don’t write melody lines with strange and challenging intervals
that couldn’t be sung. In my opinion, ITC’s music has references
that are natural and original, not overly complex and contrived –
we don’t write stuff that’s feels unnatural to us.
“Losing Stones, Collecting Bones” exemplifies ITC’s
vocal focus on a number of tracks. Most evidently are of course Swedish
vocalist Stefan Sundstrøm’s crooning contributions but in
addition to this, Qvenild also lends his own distinct voice to some of
the disc’s tracks.
Downbeat favourites: The band’s first release,
2005’s “This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat,” was labelled
“one of the finest and most arresting albums to come out of Europe”
(that year) by Downbeat Magazine. Other critics were just as impressed,
on both sides of the Atlantic, and the amount of attention was a telling
sign of the position that young Norwegian jazz currently holds internationally:
“Losing Stones, Collecting Bones” has received reviews on
par with the debut, or even better. Hailed as a masterpiece by domestic
media, international reviews have just begun trickling in. Not least in
the New York Times whose critic sums up by saying that “the thoughtful
album drafts bittersweet melancholy as a softer cousin to the blues.”
In addition to the NY Times, Mojo, Uncut, The Guardian, Q, Time Out USA
and Allaboutjazz.com have all awarded the release glowing reviews.
Late last autumn, ITC teamed up with Supersilent and Susanna & The
Magical Orchestra for a very successful European tour: “We played
for all kinds of audiences, from the purist a jazz folk to indie kids,
says Qvenild, - what they had in common was that they were really open
minded and not concerned whether if it was jazz or not – just like
us. The audiences were really responsive and positive – we had a
The 2007 itinerary calls for a number of appearances at festivals at home
and abroad as well as a US tour in June.
Wilco + ITC: “Losing Stones, Collecting Bones”
featured collaborations with NYC guitarist Marc Ribot (of Tom Waits fame)
and Swedish vocalist Stefan Sundstrøm. Qvenild welcomes the thought
of new voices on the trio’s next album whose conception is hoped
to begin this autumn: - I’d really like to work with Björk’s
harpist Zeena Parkins or Ikue Mori, but the one of the top of our wish
list is without a doubt Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy – that would rock!
Wilco + In The Country – what could be possibly wrong with that?
Doesn’t it sound like a match made in heaven?
Published : 07.02.2007