[concert reports]

Motorpsycho & Jaga Jazzist brass section playing ...
The 42nd Molde International Jazz Festival
Idrettens Hus, 2002, Friday, July 19, 10pm

The sports hall is packed to the rim with a mostly younger audience than I usually see at MP concerts, around 2000 people all together. Most people have to stand, but I cued up 2 hours before the doors opened and secured a seat right behind the soundboard. The wide stage is on the other long wall, and there are a few rows of seats along the two short walls as well.

First off a 2 minute montage of video and sound by official festival artist Arne Nøst is projected on different sized screens above the stage. This guy is also responsible for the layout of the whole venue, which very much succeeds in taking away the sports hall feeling.

Then infamous music journalist Arild Rønsen gives a nice introduction of the band(s).

They walk on stage. Bård to the far left behind two keyboards, the melotron and a grand piano, then Bent with only one cabinet. The four Jazzists, tuba-sax-trumpet-flute, take center stage, but rather far back, and to their right stands a pair of congas (hm, wonder who they are meant for?). Snah is to the right with his usual setup plus the old Moog which I haven't seen since 1999 before Bård joined. Geb is somewhat hidden behind Snah, and I fail to see him most of the evening even if I'm sitting in the supposedly best seat in the house.

While plugging in the bass and thanking the audience for being there, Bent remarks that last time they played in Molde (11 years ago) 18 people paid to see them ...

The setlist:
01 Überwagner (6 min)
02 Go To California (7 min)
03 Song For A Bro' (16 min)
04 Thema De Yo-Yo (The Art Ensemble Of Chicago) (12 min)
05 Ebony Queen (McCoy Tyner) (10 min)
06 Tunji (John Coltrane) (7 min)
07 Upstairs/Downstairs (6 min)
08 Landslide (7 min)
09 Neverland (4 min)
10 Walking With J. (7 min) ->
11 Tristano (18 min)
12 Space Is The Place (Sun Ra) (20 min)

Total time 2 hours 15 min.

Some things worked excellent, and some things didn't work at all.

The opener was loud and powerful, and worked fine with the horns. Still it is nice to see in the Dagsavisen interview that only one song on the new album will have horns by Jaga, and that Überwagner is not the one.

Go To Cal have been played so much better before without the flute solo, and this renedition was very similar to the Oslo 2001 flute solo version. We got no guitar or piano solos here ...

The Other Fool was good, but no high light. The horns were more audible in the mix by now, but seemed to be a little lost and unsecure here and there.

Song For A Bro' starts the jamming section with a blistering guitar job from Snah, while the sax taking over doesn't sound too convincing. However they collectively manage to pick things up and end up with a stormer of a version with a great trumpet solo and lots of nice work from Bård and Snah. Even Morten Fagervik, who does the guitars in the absence of Turbo (who is working with A-HA these days), joins in on the congas, and they are 9 people on stage!

The first cover is nothing short of a masterpiece, and I hope they keep this one for a long time, even after the Jazzists have gone home. It's a very upbeat funky thing with lots of great jams and interplay between the band and the horns. It's incredibly jazzy with some cool vocals sung by Bent, completly out of his range, but nevertheless he goes for it. I start to realize that this evening is going to be somewhat special after all.

Ebony Queen has Bård doing a repetitive weird theme on the grand piano, while the rest jazz like madmen. It's probably my favorite among the covers this night. The cool thing is that this stuff gives way for the Jazzists to shine, and not just acompany the rockers, but actually play a main role. And Snah, that guy, he just eats of their hands and creates some really great and amazing sounds. Just incredible, as is Geb's playing. You should think they both were jazz musicians in their former lives.

The beautiful John Coltrane piece Tunji is more downbeat, starting off with some gentle basswork from Bent, with Snah, Geb and Bård carefully joining in before the sax takes over and brings us to the climax supported by a steady tuba groove. Excellent and beautiful beyond words, but I wonder how the Turbojugend will react to this if our heroes serve them this stuff for starters at Bizarre ...

Back to more known stuff: The loudest, but still most beautiful version ever of Upstairs / Downstairs is next up. Once again the tuba sets a magic mood, Snah sings more fragilely than ever and the horns really shine.

Guitartunings for the freaks
out there:
Upstairs: C G C G C D
California: D G C F A D
Other Fool: E A C G H E
Bro': E A C G H E
Yo-Yo: E A C G H E
Ebony: E A C G H E
Tunji: E A C G H E
Landslide: D A D A D E
Tristano: D G C F A D

Landslide once again sees Bård behind the grand piano, a sound that adds another dimension to this song. A tasteful trumpet solo is added after the last verse, and another highlight of the show is a fact.

The rearranged Neverland (which will be on the new album without the horns according to Bents introduction and the Dagsavisen interview) has only once before been aired (April 15/4-02 in Paris), and that was the best version ever, regardless of versions. But in Molde it was probably the worst performance I've heard. They struggled to keep the thing together, and the horns seemed not to follow the rest at all. Only plus: Bård's cool organ sound

Walkin' With J. suffered the same destiny as Neverland. No one took responsibility, the jam never happened, and the horns fell off the wagon. Thinking of the great 10 min versions that ended up in Miles Davis' So What during the 2000 tour, tonights fumbling performance ended up being the weakest I've seen.

One would be tempted to believe that the longest Tristano in history would be as close as one could come to heaven without passing away for good. Unfortunately it really didn't go anywhere tonight, and although several smaller climaxes came along, the big bang never happened. The attempts to integrate the horns ruined the buildup several times, and not even Snah with his scary Moog or the trumpeter with his double bass could save the song from a cold landing when Bent called it quits after 18 minutes, confusing Geb who actually wanted to take it further once more.

The Sun Ra encore was a nice end to a funny night. I never understood the magic of this one, irritating as it is. But we got a few cool sounds and solos (The Moog sounds from Snah saved it for me), and a lot of smiling faces, handclaps and sing-a-longs. I guess Vidar Lønn Arnesen and Gunvor Hals would be proud of us if they were there.

Highlights to these ears: Everything from Song For A Bro' through Landslide.

The most positive thing: Bård is again given something to do when the Jazzists are there. Last year he ended up doing virtually nothing while they took all his parts. In Molde he did a tremendous job, and contributed vastly to the success of the night. Anyone opting for his departure should catch him on one of the next shows before the pass further judgement.

Another positive thing was Snah. He is so alive on stage these days, and he plays so good. Someone with the powers to do so please give the man the credit he deserves!

The Other Anders