The Unforgiving Minute (UK) - original
and the Magical Orchestra / Sidsel Endresen / In The Country: Skopje
Jazz Festival, Round One: Norwegians!
Skopje National Opera and Theatre, Macedonia
October 18, 2007
By PAUL CURRION
Norwegians galore on the first night! Melody Mountain, the most recent
album from Susannah and the Magical Orchestra (the latter comprised entirely
of keyboardist Morten Quinveld) consisted of cover versions of unexpected
songs that benefitted from Susannah’s wonderfully languid voice
and Morten’s batty electronic instrumentation. The result is like
Angel Delight - it’s really tasty, but too much of it and you feel
a bit ill. It was fun to play spot the original, but the tempo remained
the same for most of the set, which meant that it was difficult to get
very excited by the music. Perhaps I ask for too much - you can hear for
yourself on the video for their cover of “Love will tear us apart”.
Sidsel Endresen is one of the most fantastic vocalists in the world, with
a breathy, versatile voice that she bends into every conceivable shape.
She’s not a straight vocalist at all - by which I mean that she
can be very difficult, especially when it’s just her on stage. This
proved to be the case tonight, where she spent a good 40 minutes performing
with a delivery that was a cross between a series of breathing exercises
and an episode of Tourette’s. I’m glad I had the opportunity
to see her, but I’d prefer to see her bouncing ideas off other musicians.
Finally, Morten Quinveld returned with his trio project In The Country
- more accessible than Sidsel, more musically interesting than the Magical
Orchestra. It’s hard to describe what they do, because it isn’t
really jazz. Although they follow the classic piano/bass/drums lineup,
they’re strongly influenced by the European improvisational tradition
(which makes sense, as they record for Rune Grammafon) but also build
in some very hummable chorus work. And they’re dark, did I mention
that? Imagine a soundtrack for a Norwegian movie about the tribulations
of farmers (farmers who are also jazz fans) in the immediate post-WWII
period, that’s the sort of thing.
At one point, they even tried to get the audience to sing along. It was
unsuccessful - somebody should have told them that Macedonians don’t
roll like that- but it was also a problem with the National Opera and
Theatre, which was where the concert was held. It wasn’t the sort
of venue that any of these acts could benefit from - the stage was too
big, the audience too far away and the auditorium too formal.
After I saw In The Country earlier this year at Cargo (supporting Supersilent),
I found that listening to their album Losing Stones Collecting Bones was
much the same as seeing them play live. For me, this is a bad sign for
a jazz group, for whom live performance should be the opportunity to really
stretch out. Despite that reservation, I really enjoy their performances
- they obviously like playing together, they like the audience and they
have a sense of humour which comes through quite strongly. This makes
up for any reservations I have about whether I’m hearing anything
really exciting happening.
So to summarise: I lose Jazz Club points for not appreciating Sidsel.
Susannah and the Magical Orchestra are fine, but better in a nightclub
than a concert hall. In The Country get the gold star this evening, particularly
for the explanation behind the song “Torch Fishing”.
Published : 23.10.2007