Norwegian prolific double bass player Ole Morten Vågan finds humor even in the most gloomy scenarios of the impending doom that awaits us all. He has a name for this kind of tendency – apocalyptic slapstick humor. His second collaboration with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra (TJO), as a composer and bandleader, highlights this kind of sharp, black humor dressed with driving themes. His first collaboration with TJO, «Happy Endlings» (Odin, 2018), was his first project as the artistic director of TJO (he participated before in seven projects of TJO) and spun around an end of time scenario where the main characters were unaware of it.
The sequel, «Plastic Wave», tells about all the small imperceptible processes that go on around us without our knowing, like what happens when all our little endeavors fuse with the world around us, or when the volcanic rock that melts with all the plastic garbage and becomes a new type of rock.
The personnel of the TJO version of «Plastic Wave» is a little different from the one that performed «Happy Endlings» but is still an outfit of heavyweights: vocalist Sofia Jernberg, violinist Ola Kvernberg, trumpeter Eivind Lønning, trombonist Øyvind Brække, sax players Signe Emmeluth, Kjetil Møster, Espen Reinertsen and Eirik Hegdal, cellist Marianne Baudouin Lie, pianist Oscar Grønberg, keyboards player Ståle Stoløkken, drummers Gard Nilssen and Håkon M. Johansen, and Vågan. A perfect cast of musicians to spice Vågan’s mischievous end-time antics with bright, optimist colors.
The double album «Plastic Wave» was recorded halfway through 2020 and enjoys Flu Hartberg’s cover art that adds extra momentum to the music. The album has an uplifting Mingus-ian power, relying on the propulsive and powerful rhythm section of Vågan, Nilsssen and Johansen, the poetic, wordless singing of Jernberg and the eruptive, charismatic front line of the reeds and brass players. TJO and Vågan sound like a tight orchestral entity, bigger than its parts, and Vågan is clearly a composer who knows how to play with the rich palette of sounds of the TJO, but also trusts the individual contributions of this all-star TJO version. Like «Happy Endlings», «Plastic Wave» offers a thrill-packed, roller-coaster ride, with sudden detours, surprising twists and vivid cinematic images.
This adventurous, emotional ride stresses the inclusive sonic vision of Vågan and the TJO, embracing the legacy of jazz big bands but twists this legacy with prog-rock and Zappa-like fusion, leaving aside the typical Nordic melancholia, and, obviously, sparks it with generous doses of apocalyptic slapstick humor.
Sofia Jernberg (v), Ola Kvernberg (vio), Eivind Lønning (tp), Øyvind Brække (b), Signe Emmeluth (as), Kjetil Møster ts, cl), Espen Reinertsen (ts, bcl), Eirik Hegdal (bs, C-melody s, cl), Marianne Baudouin Lie (c), Oscar Grønberg (p), Ståle Storløkken (Hammond org, synth), Gard Nilssen (dr), Håkon M. Johansen (dr), Ole Morten Vågan (b)