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Express (USA) - original article

Scandinavian Swing: In the Country


SAVE THE BEST for first. That has to be the reason In the Country is opening the Nordic Jazz festival at the House of Sweden on Friday rather than headlining it. (That the trio is Norwegian, rather than Swedish, probably has something to do with it, too.)

No stinky gloves to the faces of the Jens Winther European Quintet (Denmark), the Ilmiliekki Quartet (Finland) and the Peter Asplund Quartet (Sweden), either. All are extremely strong acts, covering the jazz spectrum, from mainstream swing (Winther and Asplund) to gorgeous folky modernism (Ilmiliekki), and House of Sweden's rooftop audience will experience an evening of stunning sounds to accompany the on-high view across the Potomac.

But only In the Country has developed a musical language all its own — call it "Nynorsk" (New Norwegian).

The trio of Morten Qvenild (piano), Roger Arntzen (bass) and Pal Hausken (drums) call on the pastoral traditions of Norwegian jazz — aka "mountain music" — but In the Country also adds enough darkness to its sound that even at its most serene there's a palpable tension in the band's songs. And "songs" is a key word for In the Country's second CD, "Losing Stones, Collecting Bones" (Rune Grammofon).

"I was trying to develop the songwriting from the first album ["This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat"]," Qvenild said, "and make it even more current to the things that interest me: pop music and more rock music, more tight kinds of music. And bring this into a piano trio."

"Losing Stones, Collecting Bones" is more romantic than its predecessor, though both are beyond lovely. Like countryman Tord Gustavsen, Qvenild taps into deep emotions with simple phrases, letting the silence speak and communicating through tightly controlled band dynamics.

"A clearer album. Not so much jazz as the first one; it's more songs" is how Qvenild described the new CD. "It was even more important to orchestrate the songs to give them variations. But me as a musician is into more of the simple stuff. So maybe that's why you think it's more romantic; it's very attached to some kind of beauty, but I also try to have some kind of danger."

» House of Sweden, 901 30th St. NW; Fri., 6:30 p.m., sold out; 202-467-2600. (Foggy Bottom-GWU)

Published : 15.06.2007