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Hildegunn Øiseth Quartet

In order to truly understand jazz trumpeter Hildegunn Øiseth, born in 1966 in Kongsvinger, Norway, you have to be aware of the fact that she prefers to do her own musical research. In the 1990s, after studying music, she played trumpet with the Bohuslän Big Band from Sweden before moving to South Africa for two years. There, she not only delved deep into the jazz and traditional music scenes around Cape Town, she also began researching the music of the Sami indigenous peoples of northern Scandinavia. In the process, she discovered how similar their music was to traditional music in South Africa.

During several trips through Pakistan, Øiseth looked for similarities between the ragas there and the scales that are typical of folklore in Norway. At a Sufi event in Pakistan, she was also fortunate enough to uncover the connection between this South Asian country and her homeland in northern Europe: the goat horn, which is played at Sufi ceremonies in Pakistan, is a traditional instrument of Norway, and also used by shepherds as a signal horn.

On the one hand, Øiseth has, in a way, domesticated the dark, archaic ‘cry’ of the goat's horn in order to play it in the context of her modern jazz. On the other hand, she wants the trumpet to be understood as a contemporary construction of the goat horn, preferring to alienate its sound, sometimes through different kinds of effects devices that are otherwise only used for the electric guitar, in order to sound as emotional and profound as she does on the bukkehorn, as it is called in Norway. In the meantime, she plays both instruments with a naturalness and fluency for all scales of instrumentation.

The founding of her quartet took place thanks to a tip from the Norwegian sound engineer, Jan Erik Kongshaug. At one point, he asked Øiseth why she had never played in the studio with a quartet. At that time, the advantages of this instrumentation for her as a trumpeter had not yet become clear to her – for example, how homogeneously and harmoniously the tone of her brass instrument would blend with the warm, woody sound of a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums, or how discursively and eloquently this line-up could be improvised within.

After their first release in 2011, Stillness, this quartet has become the line-up of choice. Within this foursome, Øiseth can live out her aesthetic and stylistic preferences, combining to her heart's content her idea of modern jazz with the musical cultures of the world and the folklore of Norway and Scandinavia. And with her compatriot, Espen Berg, she has a pianist at her side who is able to adequately and harmonically ground her strong themes on the trumpet and bukkehorn and her dynamically differentiated art of improvisation.

On her new, and the 5th quartet album, Garden on the Roof, Øiseth has refined the parameters of her jazz music. While on the opening track, "Prelude to Waking," she makes it clear, in open dialogue with Berg and the drummer, Per Oddvar Johansen, that the goat horn has long since become an integral instrument for her improvisational music, she plays a clever game of deception on the following track, "Luringen," In combination with Øiseth's lyricless vocals, an oscillating harmony and an almost prancing groove from Johansen and bassist Magne Thormodsæter, she develops a simple and singable melody, first on the goat horn and then on the trumpet, as is often also done in Scandinavian folk songs.

Her fondness for games of deception is demonstrated once again when she brings guitarist Nils-Olaf Johansen into the quartet as her guest. While in "Pups and Cups," Øiseth engages in a free play of improvisational forces with the guitarist, Johansen performs solos of almost classic, single-note lines on his guitar over the chords of the title track, while in "In Limbo," he engages in an oscillating dialogue with the trumpeter.

The fact that Øiseth is a political artist as well is demonstrated towards the end of Garden on the Roof. While in "About Peace," she calls for a nuanced view of each of the many armed conflicts in the world and a recognition of all victims of all parties, in "Refugee Anthem," she wants to give a voice to the unnamed refugees who have sacrificed their lives on the way to a better future – a decidedly powerful statement from Hildegunn Øiseth and the musicians of her quartet.

Line up:

Hildegunn Øiseth Trumpet, Bukkehorn, Vocals / Espen Berg Piano / Magne Thormodsæter Bass / Per Oddvar Johansen Drums / + Special Guest Nils-Olav Johansen Guitar,Vocal

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