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All About Jazz (USA) - original article

In The Country: Rochester Jazz Festival
Lutheran Church Of The Reformation

June 14, 2007


Morten Qvenild: piano, keyboard, vocals; Roger Arntzen: bass, vocals; Pal Hausken: drums, percussion, vocals

After Moran’s set ran overtime, it was a quick jaunt back up to the Church for another group in the Nordic Jazz Now series—Norwegian trio In The Country. Once again the venue was packed. There was a little buzz on this one, since their recent album Losing Stones, Collecting Bones has been getting good reviews.

On paper, In The Country looked like a fairly straightforward proposition: a piano trio. But in their own way, much like Moran, they’re trying to carve their own individual space in this format. Once the music started, one realized this group was doing things a little differently. First of all their music tended to operate at the quieter end of the spectrum. Pianist Qvenild shows the influence of Paul Bley, both harmonically and in his use of space. There’s a little bit of Keith Jarrett in there as well. At times one could describe this music as Satie-esque. Drummer Hausken plays a standard kit, but it’s outfitted with all sorts of extraneous things: bells, wooden objects. He would cover his toms and snares with cloth to achieve that odd muted sound so prevalent on the disc. Occasionally he would play a glockenspiel, doubling the melody or playing counterpoint, which was a nice touch.

The rhythmic drive of this music is not exactly jazz-based. It seemed much more rock-based. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since Hausken is a fine drummer. The development of the pieces tended toward rock with a rock-ish sense of drama: starting out quietly, building an idea to a climactic pitch, then arcing back. When the band launched into “Kung Fu Boys” (“I wrote this song and named it after ourselves” said Qvenild), I couldn’t help but recall the Canterbury style of bands like Hatfield & The North. This piece could have easily been from one of that band’s instrumental interludes.

While In The Country may have had a rock base, they clearly had a jazz musician’s sense of spontaneity, responding to a distant church’s bells that started to ring during one of the quiet portions of the set. Occasionally the trio would break into song. “Everyone’s going to die, everyone in their life” went one. They were personable and seemed genuinely shocked that they had such a large crowd: “We never get audiences this big back home. This is amazing!” What was amazing was the music, and once again the audience left with smiles on their faces after receiving another pleasant surprise from this series.

Published : 18.07.2007