Atmospheric instrumental album ‘Hvor En Var Baen’ by Medbøe/Halle/Malling is solemn Folk presented in a contemporary Jazz trio setting by Norwegian electric guitarist Haftor Medbøe, Danish double bassist Eva Malling and Norwegian trumpeter Gunnar Halle.
The songs are new interpretations of music which were put to the words of Danish poet Martin N Hansen in the early part of the 20th century. Though Hansen’s poetry is little known in the English-speaking world, it has been described as nostalgic and bucolic, inspired by a great love for the rural Danish island of Als where he lived.
On ‘Æ Nynner En Vis’ Haftor delicately swells his guitar volume to mimic the bowing of a fiddle player, his every note deliberated and with the lack of percussion the music creates a sense of freedom and innocence.
Halle’s breathy trumpet on the dream-like track ‘Hvor En Var Baen’ is superb and feels primal and transcendental. Effects are gently incorporated to add other-worldly reverb and unusual oscillations which steadily bring the sound into focus.
Like sketches or movements from a classical suite, the tunes are brief while encapsulating some spirited melodies which are played with sensitivity and restraint. With none surpassing four minutes, the pieces don’t over-stay their welcome. ‘Jeg Går I Grønne Enge’ feels ancient like a cautionary folk tale with a lyrical melody not too dissimilar to our very own folksong: ‘Greensleeves’.
The song forms are varied in rigidity, some like ‘Pær Kresjen’ has the trio playing off each other in something closer to Free Jazz, while the same clarity and balance – as on more conservative tunes – remains intact.
When Eva’s unassuming bass comes into the fore during ‘Madeleine’, it’s a welcome – if a little fleeting- interlude from the languid guitar and trumpet. It would have been nice to have some more opportunities to hear Eva’s playing to give more shades and greater contrasting shifts in dynamics, as what we do hear from her is stylistically more direct.
‘Som Sang I Juninætter’ centres upon the guitar of Haftor which is beautifully harmonised and arranged, suggesting the influence of maestro Bill Frisell. Like the album as a whole, this pensive track feels personal and human, an act of meditation for artist and listener alike.