Back in 2020, Kafé Hærverk, Oslo’s live hotspot for a wide range of jazz and experimental music invited the quartet Master Oogway (titled after imaginary elderly tortoise who created kung fu and highly respected for his wisdom in the «Kung-Fu Panda» films) to do monthly concerts from August to December, bringing along a guest for each occasion. Initially, Rune Grammofon planned to release a «best of» from all of these concerts, but after further listening, it soon dawned on the label that the concert from September 2020 with young flutist Henriette Eilertsen (member of Billy Meier and Andreas Røysum Ensemble, who released her solo debut album last year, «Poems For Flute», Motvind, 2021) was truly exceptional. Since «Happy Village» is released in a 45-minute vinyl edition, one of the five pieces played in this concert was omitted, and two minor edits were made, but other than that, the album documents what was played, with no overdubs or cosmetic treatments.
Master Oogway’s double bass player Karl Erik Hornsdalsveen composed the four pieces, and one of these four, the opening piece “Heading Home” was co-written with guitarist Håvard Nordberg Funderud, who wrote the quartet’s music on its previous album «Earth And Other Worlds» (Rune Grammofon, 2020). Eilertsen sets the lyrical mode of this piece and the whole concert on the 17-minute «Heading Home». The «Home» here is an updated Nordic version of the spiritual and fiery free jazz of the sixties with its intoxicating, deep grooves. And Eilertsen instantly feels at home with Master Oogway’s high-energy and tight dynamics and takes the leading role here with commanding elegance and poetic articulation.
The title piece cements even deeper the organic, immediate affinity of Master Oogway with Eilertsen as this quintet flows with exuberant energy and hypnotic groove of Hornsdalsveen and drummer Martin Heggli Mellem. «Speech!» celebrates Master Oogway’s seminal Ayler-ian influence, with familiar uplifting gospel moods and impressive solos of sax player Lauritz Heitmann Skeidsvoll, Nordberg Funderud and Eilertsen, and a conversational interplay of the whole quintet. This magical concert ends with the lyrical «Whispering Townsfolk», beginning as a meditative piece, shifts into a short playful mode and concludes with a poetic, peaceful note.
Håvard Nordberg Funderud (g), Lauritz Heitmann Skeidsvoll (s), Martin Heggli Mellem (dr), Karl Erik Hornsdalsveen (b), Henriette Eilertsen (fl)