May 22, 2024

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Oriental Jazz Spring Festival 2024 with Billy Cobham and Chaouki Samhi: Video, Photos

Spread across 12 venues and a cinema for the programme – the venues ranging from a church, small intimate clubs, a restaurant to much larger theatres – all within a 15-minute walk from the city centre – the bill featured a mix of well-known artists such as Ellen Andrea Wang, Camille Bertault/David Helbock duo, Kadri Voorand, multi-instrumentalist Louis Cole, the Trondheim Voices and the excellent Billy Cobham (playing a terrific fusion set two days shy of his 79th birthday) alongside Norwegian and European artists.

Anyone who has been a regular at the Cheltenham Jazz Festivals Parabola venue will be well aware of how good the students from the Trondheim Conservatoire are. This festival showcases the best of the current bands and I saw three great concerts. Steinar Bø is an excellent drummer/composer and his quartet played some very cool jazz in the Diggs Café.

Singing drummer Veslemøy Narvesen and her trio play complex arrangements morphing from pop/soul to free jazz and back effortlessly – pianist Oliver Skou-Due (who also featured in the Steinar Bø band) is definitely one to watch. Lastly was the weird and wonderful Han Gaiden – a Son et Lumière with a thumping electro beat, choreographed vocals and some sharp sax playing from Ingrid Skåland Lia.

Certainly not a student but new to me was violinist Suzanne Lundeng who was playing with her trio – Nils-Olav Johansen (guitars) and Erik Nylander (drums). Lundeng is very well known in Norway as a folk player but has been moving more into jazz.

The sound is contemporary jazz but with that hint of Scandinavian melancholy. The absolute joy in this performance was the interplay between Lundeng’s violin and Johansen’s guitar. Johansen used three guitars – a Martin acoustic, an Epiphone semi and a Fender Squier Strat. Each a distinctive tone and dynamic giving Lundeng a varied and always interesting sound-scape to play off.

Another highlight was the double bill of Yumi Ito and Kadri Voraand (above). Polish-Japanese-Swiss pianist Yumi Ito, playing with Kuba Dworak (Bass) & Lago Fernàndez (Drums) creates complex soundscapes with piano and vocal improvisation that stretch from pop to avant-garde. Her songs are mostly personal stories – ‘Stardust Crystals’ is an epic worthy of any Nordic poet.

Kadri Voorand is a people person. Like Yumi Ito, Voorand’s performance is very personal, mostly dealing with love and emotion. She wears her heart on her sleeve and involves the audience in everything she does – her songs touch you lyrically and musically and they can be amusing or sad. Whether playing piano, violin or thumb piano the audience were hanging on her every note and when asked to join in the audience sang as one.

It is easy to forget that Voorand is only half of this performance, Mihkel Mälgand on basses and backing vocals is the rock that Voorand leans on time and time again – his impeccable beat and timing solid – the engine room behind the performance.

The final show of the festival in the Dokkhuset venue, set on an old dock just off the river Nidelva that runs through Trondheim featured the exhilarating Les Amazones d’Afrique.

This was the perfect band to end the festival. A musical romp that not only had the audience up on their feet dancing within minutes but up on the stage dancing with the singers too.

The Afro-rock beat featured some wicked guitar playing from Thierry Fournel and non-stop singing and dancing from Mamani, Fafa & Kandy – a joyous show that will last long in the memory.

This is an excellent laid-back festival in a beautiful city – all of the venues are close together as are the hotels, restaurants and bars – all set around the river and fjord waterfront.

A brilliant weekend festival with little stress and plenty of excellent music.

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