The debut album of the Norwegian, Bergen-based jazz sextet Molecules is a collaboration with pianist Erlend Skomsvoll, known from Come Shine and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Molecules was founded in 2014 by alumni of the Grieg Academy in Bergen – most known among them is drummer Øyvind Skarbø from the 1982 trio and Håkon Kornstad Ensemble. Molecules toured Norway, Switzerland and again, last year, Norway’s west coast, this time with Skomsvoll, and only then, on October 2016 «Louder Than You».
The group describes its songs, penned by leader-vocalist Karoline Wallace as «bordering between the frozen-song and a kangaroo». This childish observation, actually made by a three-years-old, captures somehow the essence of Molecules music. The songs of Wallace are based on strong melodic themes, sometimes quite sweet melodies, delivered by Wallace warm, fragile voice. But behind Wallace the vocalist there are six musicians, eager to add their individual voices and even mess with the melodic envelope.
This tension charges Molecules songs with elements of surprise and risk taking. Playful songs as «Her Hair» enjoy the guitar solo of Mathias Marstrander that extends the melodic logic of the songs into much more adventurous terrains. On «Politics» it is the wordless vocalizations of Wallace that take this role; on «Tip Toe» these are the brief eruptions of trumpeter Tancred Heyerdahl Husø and sax player Jonas Flemsæter Hamre and on «Bumblebee» it is Skomsvoll piano.
The most impressive songs are the ones where Wallace and Molecules plus Skomsvoll reach a delicate balance between her fragile delivery and the other six musicians tendency to play with it. The reserved «That Easy» and «Try Not To» are the most beautiful ones. Wallace and Molecules balance between her emotional, disarming delivery and the group thoughtful sonic envelope, with an impressive piano solo on the latter song.
Karoline Wallace (v), Erlend Skomsvoll (p), Tancred Heyerdahl Husø (tp), Jonas Flemsæter Hamre (s), Mathias Marstrander (g), Petter Asbjørnsen (b), Øyvind Skarbø (dr)