That’s Why ‘The Best of’ CD/LP/digital (Jazzman) 4/5

Norwegian Christian psychadelic folk jazz may sound a long-winded recipe for a musical mismatch, but when the eclecticism of approach is handelled by group That’s Why, the result is instead a magnificent slice of left-field music that is cohesive in nature. The brainchild of two musicians with a love of jazz, pianist Jan Simonsen and flutist Per Arne Lovold, the group differed from their peers in Norway in that the sound they created was a good deal more refined while at the same time they experimented in fusing folk and gospel hues, albeit of a uniquely Scandinavian variety. The one English language song is taken from a William Blake poem, ‘Children of the future age’, and floating guitar and flute combine to typify That’s Why’s essentially folk-jazz feel throughout this compilation. The influences upon That’s Why were wide ranging, from the psychadelic rock of Blood, Sweat and Tears to the pop-folk of Peter, Paul and Mary, with harmonies accompanied by a jazz setting that remind one of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross minus the scatting. These harmonies are showcased to the fore on the exquisite vocal and flute duet on ‘Vem kan sägla’, arguably the strongest number on the anthology. More avant-garde avenues are explored on ‘Den oppstadne’ with an extended keyboard solo. As per usual with Jazzman releases, extremely informative inner sleeve notes explaining the rationale and trajectory of the group are supplied and tell you just about everything you could possibly wish to know about them.The black and white cover and label conjurs up the 1960s perfectly, just like an Ingmar Bergman film from the same era. At forty-four minutes one could wish for a few more examples from the two albums that the group recorded. Nonetheless this is music that has been seldom heard outside Scandinavia and even then to a restricted number of aficionados. That Jazzman have brought the group’s repertoire to our attention is something we should be eternally grateful for.

Tim Stenhouse