Karl Seglem - Som Spor

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"Som spor" is yet another strong album by a musician that creates music like no one else. And he just keeps getting better at it!

Karl Seglem is on a mission. And he has been since he and percussionist Terje Isungset formed the duo Isglem in 1987 and started his own "Sogn-a-song" project in 1988.

His mission and main project has been to move in the landscape between folk music and jazz and combine these musical styles in new and interesting ways.

Over the years since the late 80s his project has been documented through many albums, both in his own name, with the duo Isglem and the trio "Utla" with Isungset and fiddle player Håkon Høgemo.



This is not to say that the folk music /jazz merge is the only direction Seglem has been working in.



Seglem and Isungset were among the very pioneers of the Norwegian free jazz scene with their Isglem duo when they started.



Seglem is also no stranger to combining music and poetry, documented through two albums with Jon Fosse("Prosa" (1996, NORCD) also including Høgemo, Isungset, Arve Henriksen and Reidar Skår) and "Dikt (2006, NORCD)) and the album "Ellivan" (2009, NORCD), released in Arve Henriksen's name, but mostly a collaboration between Henriksen, Seglem and Isungset creating music for the poems by Erling Vangberg. In fact, in later years, Seglem has even broadened his repertoire by becoming an author, and has published two anthologies of his own poems, Stille ein åker" (2006) and "Kvit frekvens, stille spor" (2013).



Seglem was also a pioneer in Norway when he in 1991 started his own record label, NORCD, paving the way for other artists like Bugge Wesseltoft who followed suit some years later.



However, back to Seglem and his main project. Being a Norwegian saxophone player, it is downright impossible to escape the inevitable comparison to Jan Garbarek. And Seglem's interest in mixing folk music and jazz hasn't made it easier to avoid such a comparison. Seglem doesn't shy away from this comparison, but rather uses this reference to tell people what kind musical landscape he works with. From there he can turn the focus to the differences between Garbarek and himself. And Seglem has no problems "surviving" the Garbarek comparison, standing firmly on his own two feet with a style that is truly unique.




One major difference is that while Garbarek, Arild Andersen and some other artists have created music based on the harmonies of (Norwegian) folk music, Seglem also adopts the rhythmical patterns of the Norwegian "slåtter" (often referred to as "peasant dances" in English) in his own compositions. This also finds his way into his own personal saxophone playing. He also tend to use "real" folk music instruments like the Hardanger fiddle more in his music, where Garbarek and others often have been playing folk inspired music with "jazz instruments". In later years Seglem has even started playing goat and antilope horns as well as the saxophone, and by that he has distanced himself even further from other artists before him.



Based on everything mentioned so far, it is therefore safe to say that Seglem is doing something that no one has done before him, and has created at niche that makes him stand out as a true pioneer in a proud tradition of Norwegian musical pioneers.



And this finally brings us to this particular addition to Seglem's discography, the album "Som spor" ("Like traces") (2014, NORCD).



"Som spor" was originally a commissioned work for the 2012 Vossajazz festival, and the album is a live recording from Nasjonal Jazzscene, Oslo from December 2012. The band consists of Håkon Høgemo and Sigrid Moldestad on Hardanger fiddle, Andreas Ulvo and Lars Jacob Rudjord on keyboards, Stefan Bergman on bass and guitar and Kåre Opheim on drums and percussion, with Georg Buljo sitting in on bouzouki on "Snøvabb". This represents a departure from the bands Seglem has used for his previous albums. He has usually picked musicians from the top shelf of the Norwegian jazz scene for his projects, with names like Gjermund Silset, Helge Andreas Norbakken and Erland Dahlen. This time, with the exception of longtimecompanion Høgemo, Seglem goes for somewhat younger, and, to some extent, not so household names in jazz circles. Ulvo is young and definitely a well-known jazz name, and together with the rest of Eple Triohe also plays in what is known as Karl Seglem’s "acoustic quartet” which so far has released "NORSKjazz.no” (2009) and "NyeSongar.no” (2013, both NORCD). But Rudjord is still not a very well-known name, and Moldestad and Bergman are folk musicians while Opheim is best known as a drummer for the Norwegian rock band Real Ones. However, listening to the end result, it seems that this constellation was the great match for the task at hand, with Moldestad in particular being a perfect addition to Seglem's sonic world.



The project is a continuation of the "World Jazz" concept Seglem has coined for the music presented on the albums "Femstein" (2004), "Urbs" (2007) and "Ossicles" (2010, all three on NORCD), and represents a further refinement of the concepts introduced through these albums. And it's impressive to observe that his music gets better album by album(!). The integration between folk music and jazz elements is better than ever, making it impossible to distinguish one influence from the other. There are exceptions to this, though. "Springar frå fjord" starts out as a "springar" dance with both feet firmly planted in the folk music tradition. But halfway through it suddenly changes completely to a rhythmically slow jazz tune, where Seglem pulls out all the stops and really shows off his abilities as a jazz sax player.



My personal favourite of the album is the track "Gå mot nord" ("Walk to the north"), a particularly evocative tune, painting pictures of snow covered mountains at the break of dawn. Moldestad's beautiful voice and Seglem's distorted singing through a goat horn floats on top of the fiddle theme and the pulse from the percussion, with the fretless bass playing around the theme and the keyboards supporting the ambient feel from the vocals. It's an almost trance inducing piece of music and one of the best tunes I've heard all year(!).



But make no mistakes, "Som spor" is not all about ambience and dreamy soundscapes. There are heavier and more up-tempo tunes as well, like "Endelaus slette", where one suddenly feels like being in Santa's sleigh in a high-speed pursuit to deliver all the gifts ... And there is a jaunty and daredevil attitude to dances like "slått" and "springer" that breaks up the beauty of other tunes and create a really forceful drive throughout the album, and which also gives the musicians the chance to show off somewhat, like Rudjord's keyboard solo on "Solstrek".



"Som spor" is yet another strong album by a musician that creates music like no one else. And he just keeps getting better at it!

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