Master Oogway maybe an imaginary elderly tortoise who created kung fu and highly respected for his wisdom in the «Kung-Fu Panda» films but it is also the name of a real, high-energy Norwegian jazz quartet. The debut album of this quartet, «The Concert Koān» (Clean Feed, 2018), related somehow to the mysterious world of the fictitious tortoise, but the new one, «Earth And Other Worlds» tells a whole different story.
Master Oogawy features four young and opinionated musicians aged between 23 and 26 who met at the Norwegian Academy of Music in 2015. Already then a common desire – to recreate the feeling of the more powerful part of the sixties jazz and play vibrant, improvised music with strong themes and enough room for high-energy spontaneity.
The compositions of leader-guitarist Håvard Nordberg Funderud and energetic performance of this quartet may draw comparisons to other high-energy bands in the Rune Grammofon’s catalog such as Bushman’s Revenge or Kokofant. But Master Oogway manages to shape its own sound print. Nordberg Funderud sketches with snaky, melodic lines spiced with a mean edge; sax player Lauritz Lyster Skeidsvoll sparks his solos with nostalgic references to jazz horn heroes of the Ayler-ian school; double bass player Karl Erik Horndalsveen and drummer Martin Heggli Mellem work on the same massive kind of wavelength. Together this quartet offers a tight and big sound that beams jazz deep into the 21st century.
The six pieces of «Earth And Other Worlds» encapsulate the impressive, varied spectrum of Master Oogway. The opening piece «Heracleion» alternates between gentle and atmospheric soundscape to sharp, rhythmic attack, but the following «Brother Bear Lives Here» flexes its rhythmic muscles to the top level. «Other Earths» and «Other Worlds» navigate within peaceful seas, but in parallel courses. «Garmonbosia» focuses on a funky, heavily distorted grind, suspended only for the contrasting, melodic solos solo of Lyster Skeidsvoll. The last «Er Vi Framme Snart?» (Are we arriving soon? In Norwegian) combines the fiery jazz of the sixties and the high-energy scenery of Nordic power jazz, with powerful authority and great passion.
Håvard Nordberg Funderud (g), Lauritz Lyster Skeidsvoll (s), Karl Erik Horndalsveen (b), Martin Heggli Mellem (dr)