One of the most exiting new jazz ensembles on the international scene, the Norwegian trio In the Country, will head out on a tour of North American in mid June. Eight gigs are confirmed, including two performances at the renowned Vancouver jazz festival.
In relation to the release late last year of the trio’s second album Losing stones, collecting bones -an album that has fared remarkably well and truly established the trio on the international scene- MIC portrayed the ensemble:
In the Country is a young Norwegian jazz trio that takes its name from notions of out-of-town travels and home-turf exploration. The members share a love for revisiting their own country, exploring mountain, forest, coast and sea; sharing favourite places and spots with each other.
This mind-set is also defining for the music they make: Indifferent to excess and grandeur -almost shy- the general orientation is rather one of unhurried and honest clarity. This means narrowing down to musical particulars and upholding tranquil simplicity rather than pushing limits and excelling in performance. The characteristics of unhurried motion and simple “cleansing” structures, with only few emphasized details, do indeed bear similarities to experiences of nature or countryside. It reminds one of the promise of enlightenment through simplicity and it gives the music a character of what the New York Times in its review of their latest album “Losing Stones, Collecting Bones,” called translucent intimacy. This concept refers to the atmosphere of internal coalescence that the music manifests: The record shows for itself an exquisite kind of openness and freedom; a lightness to make music that doesn’t prove anything, but simply reveals the honest musical conceptions of the band.
There is something serene about the way In the Country’s music motions through the record's pieces; like the air from room to room. And these rooms are indeed translucent, or open to one another: In the Country’s focus is on incorporating and expressing disparate influences and expressions. -More important than technical virtuosity or spellbinding musical features is the effortless, tranquil sweeps that melts the pieces and refine the music into glass.
In the Country are often praised for their perfectly flowing playing, where the instruments and sounds seems to merge. This gives a non-composite, liquid impression and upon this slow flow they can then float small melodies, extra instruments and luminous little sounds.
In The Country was formed by Qvenild, drummer Pål Hausken and bassist Roger Arntzen in 2003 while they where all studying at the National Academy of Music in Oslo. Though they are certainly a band, it is nevertheless true that it is Qvenild’s musical visions that are set forth. Involved in many different successful projects, In the Country is his own creation, and it has been described as a kind of musical self-interpretation. This refers to the fact that Qvenild is more broadly oriented than most jazz pianist. As mentioned, he is more about merging different general kinds of expression, drawing on genres outside jazz and exploring that freedom, than he is in typical piano virtuosity.
The band’s first release, 2005’s “This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat,” was labelled “one of the finest and most arresting albums to come out of Europe” (that year) by Downbeat Magazine. Other critics were just as impressed, on both sides of the Atlantic, and the amount of attention was a telling sign of the position that young Norwegian jazz currently holds internationally: It is strange for most Norwegians to see that artists who get only limited mainstream exposure in Norway are in fact treated as household names in leading international dailies.
At 28 Qvenild is one such; a well known rising star on the firmament of international jazz. The two others also have not yet reached 30, and In the Country is in many ways the epitomic new Norwegian jazz ensemble: Combining splendid musicality with a laisser-faire attitude that allows them to make music that is open and accessible in a subtle, cross referential and arresting way.
The list of dates for the North American tour is not yet complete but at the time of writing it is set to kick off in Rochester on June fourteenth and culminate at the Vancouver Jazz festival on June 24th. This weekend the trio is playing the vibrant Bath International Music Festival in the UK.