The music of Norwegian Hardanger fiddler-violinist Nils Økland navigates freely between local traditional folk music, contemporary music, jazz and free improvisation. «Glødetrådar» (filaments in Norwegian), commissioned for the 2016 edition of the Vossajazz festival, is a sort of «back to the roots» for Nils Økland and interweaves personal and musical threads of Økland’s life, centered around Voss. In the eighties and nineties, he was a student and later the musical leader at Ole Bull Akademiet, located in Voss, and this period of time shaped his musical path.
«Glødetrådar» extends Økland’s previous works. He enjoys the company of close comrades – organist Sigbjørn Apeland and sax player Rolf-Erik Nystrøm, percussionist Håkon Mørch Stene, and double bass player play in Økland band, guitarist Per Steinar Lie and percussionist Ørjan Haaland played in Økland’s Lumen Drones trio, and Økland’s brother, trumpeter Torbjørn Økland, played with him since they were young boys. The music that Økland prepared for Vossajazz is primarily sketch-based and played without notation. It offers simple, emotional melodies, that allow this ensemble to meditate calmly but also to erupt with distorted storms.
«Glødetrådar» reflects a yearning for simple, innocent times, but it is not nostalgic. The dynamics of the ensemble are subtle and introspective and encompass the rich sonic spectrum of Økland, and stress his role as a natural bandleader who inspires an ensemble of strong-minded voices, as well as his gift to sketch instantly infectious melodies, ones that you can sing along and have a deeply emotional impact and a mysterious aroma. Take, for example, the delicate drones of «Blankt Vatn» or the prayer-like «Sjanti», or «Rull» that alternates between an infectious folky theme to collective, powerful improvisation, or the playful dramas of «Linja» and «Glødetråd». Even when Økland takes a familiar form, like «Vals», he makes it his «represents the seminal influence of ECM’s ethereal ambiance on Økland (he recorded four projects of his own for the label). The last piece «Tråd» explains from where this inspiring music flows.
My only complaint is why «Glødetrådar» is so short? I could use few more doses of this great stuff.