«Awakening», the new album of Norwegian, Stavanger-based guitarist Vidar K. Schanche attempts to capture the elusive space between dream and reality, the time where we still cherish our expectations about life and already longing for what we have lost. Schanche adds that he feels «as if I’m always on the verge of waking up», and that this album focuses on longing, acceptance, insomnia and dreams.
Schanche won in 2014 the Mai:Jazz festival’s Mølster Prize and was asked to compose a new work for the following year’s festival. He had already a vague idea about the work that he wanted to compose, had written the music and used texts by Ray Kane. Schanche enlisted for this project musicians with broad experience of improvised music, contemporary music, Nordic folk and art rock. his close associate from the EGG3, drummer Ståle Birkeland, who plays with Schanche also in the local Kitchen Orchestra, prolific violinist Nils Økland, vocalist-guitarist Dag Sindre Vagle, sax player Arild Hoem and double bass player John Lilja, both also play in the Kitchen Orchestra and in trumpeter’s Gunhild Seim’s Time Jungle.
«Awakening» was performed during the Mai:Jazz 2015 and it is a thematic work, with an almost cinematographic approach to music. This 10-part work leans more to the prog-rock territory of Schanche’s trio EGG3 than to his work as an improviser. «Awakening» sounds like an updated form of a seventies rock opera, with the degrees of freedom of a modern jazz group and a strong affinity for folk songs. This work leans on the legacy of British experimental prog-rock groups as Van Der Generator or Henry Cow and at times even Pink Floyd, especially when Schanche follows David Gilmour with his extended, powerful guitar solos, often telling more in this solos about the inner drama of the protagonist than the lyrics themselves, as on «I Wake» and «Sharing Darkness».
«Awakening» also emphasizes Schanche qualities as wise bandleader who knows how to navigate this complex and ambitious project. He chose the perfect musicians for such a demanding task and knew how to utilize their unique qualities or improvisational skills for the benefit of this work. Naturally, Økland charges the songs with captivating warmth, touching lyricism and often a dream-like quality. He also balances Vagle’s dramatic delivery of the role of the protagonist. Hoem and Lilja get enough space to expand and deepen the dramatic narrative and Birkeland solidifies the solid rhythmic basis. Vocalist Eva Bjerga Haugen concludes this impressive work with the emotional and hopeful «Warming Light», reminding us all that there is always some light at the end of another insomniac night.
Vidar K. Schanche (g), Dag Sindre Vagle (v, g), Nils Økland (vio, Hardinger vio), Arild Hoem (s), John Lilja (b), Ståle Birkeland (dr), Eva Bjerga Haugen (v)