Sep 6 2015
Clockwork, the 2013 release by the Lars Jakob Rudjord Ensemble has been sitting around my listening queue for awhile now. It was one of my eMusic Jazz Picks back when it was released, and noticing that it had been awhile since I last gave it a spin, I’ve recently begun revisiting it. I’m reminded now of why it caught my ear in the first place.
Clockwork begins nicely enough. After a brief opening track (which I’ll address later), the album gets underway with the introspective “Visa från Sandberget,” a song that is heavy from a contemplative demeanor and very generous with the melodic beauty. It possesses a light touch, something of an airy presence, and it has many of the qualities that would get it described as Nordic Jazz. Many of the tracks that follow take on the same pattern. At times, their airy presence borders on insubstantial and a severe lack of engagement. There’s nothing wrong with these tunes. They’re all very pretty. But were they all that comprised this album, it wouldn’t earn a mention.
But then the album begins to unfold in unexpected ways. There’s the crazy volatility of “Bowing,” and how a furious attack on cello is juxtaposed against piano’s more peaceful phrasings. And there’s “Untitled Picture #1” and the way it shrugs the notion of structure from its shoulders. On these songs, cellist Katrine Schiøtt leads the charge, driving the songs ahead. On the other hand, her cello is the undercurrent that lifts up the pointed melodicism of Rudjord’s piano on “Syvert is Lonely,” a song that rings with clarity and shows how Nordic Jazz expressionism can result in sharp imagery, eyes wide open.
The curious “Harpe” is an intriguing mix of Rudjord strumming the piano strings, a high pitched whistle from cello and the sparse but resonant hum of Adrian Fiskum Myhr‘s bass. It’s more sonic vignette than structured composition, but its intriguing personality makes the issue of intent and form a secondary concern.
The album opens with the edgy murmur of “Fremad Marsj” and ends with the serene “Koral 2.” The tonal qualities of each song are effectively flipped from the album half their sound is more associated with. It’s a nifty way to wrap the two faces of this interesting album into a more cohesive bundle, as well as satisfying ways to provide an introduction and a finale.
Your album personnel: Lars Jakob Rudjord (piano), Katrine Schiøtt (cello) and Adrian Fiskum Myhr (double bass).
Listen to additional album tracks on the artist’s Soundcloud page.
Download a free album track at Bandcamp.
Released in 2013 on Fyrlyd Records.
Music from the Farsund, Norway scene.