Karin Krog: First Lady of Norwegian Jazz

In 1994, thirty years after her international breakthrough at the Antibes jazz Festival, Karin Krog remains the unchallenged first lady of Norwegian jazz.

Karin Krog

Now in her 55th year, she is still a vital, swinging vocal artist, just as effortlessly at home with the standard American repertoire, modernist improvisations and Duke Ellington's church music as with international folk-inspired music. Perhaps her interpretation, which was always assured, has now been supplemented by the grey-haired authority of maturity, but her voice still has the same slight huskiness as ever.

When Karin first entered the jazz scene in 1957, her ideal was the great American jazz singer Billie Holiday (1915 - 59). In the following years, she gradually developed her own personal style, studying under Anne Brown from 1962 to 1969. By 1962 she was ready to establish her own band, and musicians that have later become internationally famous, such as Jan Garbarek, Jon Christensen and Arild Anderson, were all members of Karin Krog's ensembles at one time or another during that period.

Although attempting to make a professional career as a jazz musician has always required a certain amount of courage, Karin Krog made an almost unthinkable decision when she took the step of entering the ranks of the professionals in 1964. The fact that she was subsequently proved right is another matter, and perhaps the tide of her debut record of the same year, By Myself, gave an indication of her determination. Her co-musicians were Egil Kapstad (piano), Kurt Lindgren (bass) and Jon Christensen (percussion).

She has recorded approximately twenty-five discs since then, with musicians as diverse as the Kenny Drew Quartet (Jazz Moments, 1966), Jan Garbarek/Arild Andersen (Joy, 1968), the Dexter Gordon Quartet (Some Other Spring, 1970), Palle Mikkelborg et al. (You Must Believe In Spring, 1974), the Steve Kuhn Trio (We Could Be Flying, 1975), Archie Shepp et al. (Hi-Fly, 1976), Warne Marsh/Red Mitchell (I Remember You, 1980), Bengt Hallberg (Two of a Kind, 1981) and John Surman (Such Winters of Memories, 1983 and Freestyle, 1986). Her earliest recordings are being re-released on CD under Karin Krog's own Meantime label.

Karin was awarded the Buddy statuette, the Norwegian Jazz Federation's highest honour, as early as 1965, and has been part of the international jazz scene since the latter half of the sixties. At an early stage, she started to use new electronic effects like the ring modulator and the echo machine, which opened up entirely new opportunities for varying her vocal expression and aroused deserved attention.

In 1967, band leader Don Ellis invited her to make a recording in Los Angeles. This cooperation resulted in several other engagements in the USA with Ellis, Clare Fischer, Ted Curson and the University of Illinois Big Band between 1970 and 1981. Karin Krog has sung at most of the important European jazz festivals and toured Europe, Japan and India. She opened Jazz India in Bombay in 1975 and was asked to sing there again at the first Jazz Yatra Festival in 1978. She was voted “New Star” by the critics of the American Down Beat magazine as early as 1969, and has been among the top names on various other international critics' lists for many years.

During her long career, Karin Krog has naturally sung on many TV programmes, both at home and abroad. She has not only stood in front of the cameras, however; she has also produced jazz programmes for TV and has been involved in the administrative side of Norwegian jazz, initiating and becoming the first Chairman of the Norwegian Jazz Forum in 1965.

Translation: Virginia Siger ©
Printed in the music magazine Listen to Norway, Vol.2 - 1994 No. 3
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