A thousand thanks to my long-time work colleague Bob Stone for alerting me to this piece in The Guardian newspaper in the UK about the Norwegian jazz-experimental trumpeter Arve Henriksen. I delight in finding out about gifted and artistically mould-breaking Scandi musicians, almost to the extent that it becomes a ‘collecting’ hobby redolent of philately or numismatics, but I suppose that’s what (at least) half of being a muso is all about. I have a good deal of empathy with my friend who heard Frank Zappa properly for the first time, liked it and went out and bought more or less every available Zappa album he could (and there’s a compendious musical zoo of Zappa to choose from).
Even so, I don’t need to be a completist collector at this point in order to appreciate an initial sip in the form of this Henriksen offering, Sorrow And Its Opposite. The trumpet that sounds so much like the Japanese flute is apparently a common motif of Henriksen’s work, and it’s certainly in evidence here, but what extraordinary tonal effects and strata emerge otherwise. Particularly evocative is the way that one recording seems to have been basically superimposed upon another at one point without creating anything aurally jarring (in fact it creates the exact antithesis of this. Awful Atonality We Don’t Hear And Its Opposite?) Not to mention the way around 2:40 that sound melts into silence, before, out of silence, sound is unobtrusively forged to new effect without the overall continuity of the piece being sullied.
We’re delighted to see that Henriksen has had the chance to play with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame and taken the opportunity in the process to disconcert his audiences with what the article terms ‘unhinged screaming and some clattering drum work’. Just as Stevie Wonder’s ongoing claim to be the maestro of intelligent modern soul music is cemented by the elegant, spiritually nourishing drumwork of his early 1970s offerings, so anyone really looking to make big advances within the metier of experimental music must be prepared to rip up the textbook and do things the listener doesn’t expect of them instrumentally and tonally even when they’re familiar with what the artist has done before.
And it lends credence to the notion that among the supergroup fraternity of rock stars, John Paul Jones might be the goodest, cerebralest and laidbackest egg of them all..
(We’re aware we’ve got a whole trove of Led Zeppelin-related Scandi stuff to mine here in our own good time – but in the meantime thanks to our good friend I’d Rather Be In Iceland for scratching the surface.)