When I first visited a very snowy Oslo for the mind-blowingly diverse by:Larm festival I asked Food’s prolific and influential drummer Thomas Strønen what continues to make the musical connections between Norway and Britain tick? He quickly replied, “We’ve got the same sense of humour. We all like Monty Python!” he said laughing, before continuing; “I think also watching the British jazz scene, I’ve always loved British jazz musicians and I’ve always worked a lot with British jazz musicians. I have a band now with pianist John Taylor and Tore Brunberg who’s a great saxophone player from Norway, and we have a trio together (called Meadow). I’ve always listened a lot to jazz musicians from England. And they also seem to mix different elements from different genres – contemporary music, electronic music, and rock music – they don’t have too much respect for the jazz tradition, which I think is nice, because that’s all been done and it’s still being done on a large scale in America, so let them just continue with that. But Britain is a big country and there’s loads of fantastic players. Many of my favourite players live there, like Martin France is a fantastic drummer for example.”
This fearlessly all-embracing openness has served so much of what has shaped the current proliferation of bands and artists well, as each one is allowed to develop and nurture their own sonic identity. Hence Conexions seeks to deepen and broaden these partnerships further still. It’s also apt that one of Strønen’s heroes, the aforementioned Martin France, should kick off this exciting series of concerts with a truly stellar band of revered ex-Loose Tubes guitarist John Parricelli, former Brian Eno/David Byrne bassist/composer Tim Harries, percussionist/sound designer Terje Evensen and Led Zeppelin bass legend John Paul Jones. It speaks volumes about the vibrancy of the current Norwegian scene that the latter rock icon is now a huge Supersilent fan and increasingly potent explorer of electronica himself.
Yet this is just a mouth-watering entrée for a dazzling line up of musical exchanges from the exquisite minimalist meetings between the likes of Sidsel Endresen with Philip Jeck and Chrstian Wallumrød with Garth Knox to expansive musical forays from In the Country, Food and a truly unmissable meeting between Jaga Jazzist and the Britten Sinfonia. So as Monty Python’s John Cleese used to say, “And now for something completely different,” and in the case of Norway and Britain’s combined musical riches, different is good.
Mike Flynn, Jazzwise Magazine
Read more on the Conexions concert series here.