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Ola Kvernberg Liarbird (2011)

                   Ola Kvernberg – Liarbird
Born: June 16, 1981 in Fræna
Location: Trondheim, Norway
Album release:
Record Label: http://www.jazzlandrec.com/
Genre: Bluegrass / Folk / Jazz
Website: http://olakvernberg.com/
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/olakvernberg
It may have seemed that recruiting American saxophonist Joshua Redman for the live premiere of Liarbird — a joint commission by the Trondheim and Molde Jazz Festivals in Norway — was the musical equivalent of a ringer in sports. But it wasn’t long into Ola Kvernberg’s ambitious Molde Jazz 2010 performance, as the violinist launched into the first of many staggeringly fine solos, that Redman’s appreciation for the players around him became clear — his expression, for most of the show, one of sheer amazement. And why wouldn’t it be? With a group of exceptional young Norwegians whose collective résumé includes Jaga Jazzist, Shining, Atomic and Motif — in addition to most, like trumpeter Mathias Eick and saxophonist Håkon Kornstad, being leaders in their own right — Kvernberg clearly assembled a group with the broad scope necessary to realize a suite of original material, running the gamut from folkloric lyricism to jaggedly organized chaos, and from unfettered freedom to detailed through-composition.
The problem with Norwegian commissions is that there are sometimes long gaps between performance and recording — in this case, nearly a year-and-a-half, but it’s been worth the wait. It’s not necessarily easy to capture the energy and momentum of a live performance in the studio — sometimes it’s better to capitalize on the unique qualities studio recording has to offer. With Liarbird, Kvernberg manages to do both, with the studio’s more controllable sound facilitating interplay at a level not always possible in less-than-perfect performance spaces.
Kvernberg’s solo on “Wintermelon” is as fiery as its underlying support from two bassists (Atomic and The Thing‘s Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and Motif’s Ole Morten Vågan) and two drummers (Erik Nylander, back from Kvernberg’s equally impressive Folk (Jazzland, 2009) and Shining’s Torstein Lofthus), with Zanussi Five‘s Eirik Hegdal (replacing Redman on this session) turning in one of set set’s most nuclear moments, in a three-way with Lofthus and Nylander that’s the perfect argument against those who feel compelled to squeeze these Norwegians square pegs in the same Nordic Cool round hole. There’s something undeniably distinct — indefinably Norwegian, even, perhaps — about the way Kvernberg’s nonet approaches contextually directed free play, and yet its roots in the American tradition, in particular what’s fanned out from Ornette Coleman‘s early ’60s innovations, are equally unassailable.
But it’s not all high energy, high octane: “Vilje” is a brooding tone poem, where Flaten, Vagan, Kvernberg and violist Bergmund Waal Skaslien become a lower-register string quartet to underscore Eick’s melancholically lyrical work, before turning the stage over to Kornstad, whose solo incorporates the same approach to looping that made his own Dwell Time (Jazzland) one of the best releases of 2009.
Trimmed from a 100-minute performance into a more concise 65-minutes, Liarbird couldn’t succeed without not just players of this caliber, but these specific players. But as much as its success is predicated on the playing, Liarbird also demonstrates significant growth as a writer and leader for Kvernberg. Having just turned thirty this violinist to watch now has the one-two-punch of one of the best live shows of 2010 and one of the best recordings of 2011.
01.) Liarbird     2:33
02.) Boog     2:42
03.) Boun´Amina     2:43
04.) Wintermelon     2:11
05.) Vilje     1:45
06.) Olero     2:13
07.) Cobb     2:31
08.) Spannung     1:43
Ola Kvernberg, violin impresario par excellence, returns to Jazzland with yet another astounding album: Liarbird.
The album effortlessly moves between moments of serene beauty and raucous full-on jams, at times almost ambient in texture, at times sounding like a drunken night of revelry.
The division between composition and improvisation is often blurred, with moments of unison emerging and disappearing unexpectedly, all the time carrying the music forward to new heights.
Developed from an original live concept by Kvernberg, Liarbird follows a structure based on movements, creating a conceptual whole rather than a selection of individual pieces. The intensity of the album increases with each subsequent track, but “intensity” is not merely a term used here to describe increases in boisterous energy; rather, it describes the feeling within each track.
Kvernberg’s violin is obviously to the fore, but never exclusively dominant. Instead, it acts like a guide for the music to follow, leading it through the uncharted territories between free jazz and compositional expertise, with sparse moments of haunting beauty and large walls of full band sound. Minimalist compositional techniques are given a new setting, allowing an unparalleled line-up of musicians to move freely. Accompanying Kvernberg are Bergmund Waal Skaslien on viola and vocals, Eirik Hegdal on soprano, sopranino and baritone saxophones and vocals, Mathias Eick on trumpet, Håkon Kornstad on tenor saxophone, flutonette, and vocals, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on double bass, electric bass, electronics, and vocals, Ole Morten Vågan on double bass and vocals, Erik Nylander and Torstein Lofthus on drums and percussion.
The opening track, the eponymous “Liarbird” sets the album’s agenda perfectly, with languid notes and elongated harmonies alongside chattering percussion and exquisite soloing. “Boog” creates a kind of Macedonian atmosphere, using exotic scales and obtuse instrumentation, building into a kind of free jazz horo. “Boun’Amina” begins with a clearly improvisational character, although not necessarily existing outside composition, using extended string instrument techniques. It evolves into a kind of shambolic military march, with elements of classic New Orleans jazz ingredients. “Wintermelon” comes in with an utterly different attitude, like classic cool jazz on one hand, bebop on the other, while the feet are almost ready to make their way to the nearest disco; yet the free jazz ethos in never far away. “Vilje” begins with sedate bass, moving towards a chamber ensemble sound. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces of music to grace the Jazzland catalog, and is certainly a highpoint in Kvernberg’s already exemplary career. “Olero” enters with a near discordant pulse, before breaking into a stumbling journey through Middle Eastern vibes and classical overtones. “Cobb” strides in with bravado, a strong beat, strong melodies and harmonies at the fore, and fast becomes a full-throttle improvisational workout. But it retains a DNA structure found throughout the album. “Spannung” brings the album to a close, with broad yet deep structures, and a more distilled sense of the album’s overarching structural intentions. Little motifs abound throughout the album, with each track echoing the others in some way. The unity of each part with the others is unmistakeable.
"Ola Kvernberg  has composed a musical masterpiece" said Norwegian concert critic Pia F. Eriksen after Liarbird's performance at Molde Jazzfestival 2010. Allaboutjazz.com critic John Kelman called the same concert "positively nuclear" and listed it among his best live shows of 2010. Norwegian critic Terje Mosnes from Dagbladet followed up with a 6/6 stars review after the group's third performance in Oslo, January 2011.
Liarbird follows its live ancestry with equal determination, invention and craftsmanship.
Ola Kvernberg (født 16. juni 1981 i Fræna) er en norsk jazzmusiker (fiolin) kjent for sitt virtuose string-swing-spill og internasjonale opptredener.
Han begynte å spille folkemusikk i ung alder, og ble klassisk skolert gjennom den kommunale musikkskolen. Da han var 16 begynte han å spille jazz, og ble utdannet ved Jazzlinja (NTNU). Ola ble spontant kjent etter et møte med Hot Club de Norvège i 2000 under den årlige Djangofestivalen i Oslo der han forøvrig jammet med Toots Thielemans. Dette avstedkom plateutgivelsen Hot Club de Norvege presenting Ola Kvernberg & Jimmy Rosenberg (2000), soloutgivelsen Ola Kvernberg (2001), samt medvirkning på Angelo is back in town med Angelo Debarre (2001), som han også spilte med på Djangofestivalen i januar 2002. I april 2002 var Ola solist på Jon Larsens jazz-symfoni White Night Stories, sammen med Hot Club de Norvège og Tromsø Symfoniorkester, og to plateinnspillinger med dette prosjektet.
I hans egen Ola Kvernberg Trio har han spilt med Steinar Raknes bass og Doug Raney gitar (Cats & Doug, Hot Club Records, 2002). Erik Nylander trommer erstattet siden Raney bl.a. i oppsetningen med Ebou Seckas Wolof Experience (Moldejazz 2005). På Vossajazz 2006 spiller de med Vidar Busk, dog med Håkon Mjåset Johansen som stand-in på trommer. Trioen (med Nylander/Raknes) ga ut Night driver (Jazzland, 2006) med Kvernbergs egne komposisjoner.
Han spilte med Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen og Philip Catherine på Moldejazz 2004, samt medvirker i Ingebrigt Håker Flaten Quintet, i trioen «Gammalgrass» med Stian Carstensen og Ole Morten Vågan, i «The Scarlatti Ensemble» med Kim Myhr, Eirik Hegdal og Marianne Baudouin Lie, med Siri Gjæres «Trønderhøns» og som gjest i «Banjovi» med Finn Guttormsen, Stian Carstensen, Håkon Askeland, Kjartan Iversen og Knut Hem. I 2007 var han med Thomas Dybdahl på turne. I 2008 er Ola med på Jon Larsens The Jimmy Carl Black Story.
Han er portrettert i Stein Kagge's bok Fra Satchmo til Ola Kvernberg (2001). Han er bror til folkemusikeren Jorun Marie Kvernberg (1979).


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