Norwegian Jonas Howden Sjøvaag is a drummer-composer-singer-songwriter focusing on traditional and jazz music, and art rock, known from the now defunct Eple Trio, Karl Seglem bands and his duo with guitarist Juhani Silvola. Sjøvaag is also a visual artist whose artworks are often graphical rearrangements of classical figurative compositions, using various digital techniques to achieve his goal.
A Sense of Place is the second collection of songs that highlight Sjøvaag’s qualities as a singer-songwriter, following Sunday Songs (NXN Recordings, 2021) which was a series of songs written in Florence, under a scorching sun, on a rooftop in the eastern part of town. The album was released on the 44th birthday of the Munich-born, Oslo-based Sjøvaag, who focused on the issue of changing places on his duo album with Silvola, Music for Cities (Shipwreckords, 2018).
Sjøvaag recorded the 11 songs live with pianist Andreas Ulvo, who has played with him in Eple Trio, and double bass player Mats Eilertsen, for his trio’s albums Sjøvaag designed cover artworks. Both Ulvo and Eilertsen played also on Sunday Songs. Later on, he added recordings of more musicians including Silvola and trumpeter Mathias Eick. Sjøvaag did all the arrangements and the production of the album.
Sjøvaag’s acoustic and chamber songs rely on distinct harmonic movements that blend classical and contemporary elements and demand attentive listening. Sjøvaag’s vocal delivery is unassuming but perfect for the slow and thoughtful ambiance of the album and its harmonic structures and highlights his elaborate sense of pulse and timing. As before, these songs visit shifting scenes, physical and intimate ones, and tell about his movement between and within these scenes, while exposing Sjøvaag’s emotional vulnerability and insightful observations in these touching songs. The last song is a soulful and gentle cover of the iconic Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell’s «Georgia on My Mind», made famous by Ray Charles, and now read as addressing a lost love. Think of a Nick Drake meets a jazzy version of Talk Talk and Randy Newman, spiced with generous doses of Nordic melancholy.
Jonas Howden Sjøvaag (vocals, drums, drum machine), Andreas Ulvo (piano), Mats Eilertsen (double bass), Mathias Eick (trumpet), Jørgen Munkeby (saxophone), Embrik Snerte (bassoon), Mattis Myrland (vocals), Juhani Silvola (guitar), Sarah-Jane Summers (violin), Hans Martin Austestad (banjo)