November 6th 2020 must have been a strange night to perform live, it being the day Norway’s most recent lockdown was announced. Clearly, it was a good one though as most of this live offering from Norwegian collective Wako was recorded that night. It forms a natural pair with their eponymous release from 2020; six of the nine tracks are reworkings of music which appears on that album. This is their fifth release since their 2015 debut, The Good Story. The reinterpretations on this record offer an insight into the creative process of these musicians and I guess the imperative was to get some live music out there for a severely deprived audience.
Wako are: Kjetil Mulelid (piano and synth) Martin Myhre Olsen (saxophones) Simon Olderskop Albertsen (drums) Bárður Reinert Poulsen (double bass and electric bass). Additional musicians who give the live work a different flavour to the studio album are: Tore Brunborg (tenor) Lars Horntveth (bass clarinet and steel guitar) Kyrre Laastad (vibes) Adrian Løseth Waade (violin). Composing duties fell to Kjetil Mulelid and Martin Myhre Olsen. Of the core members of the collective Kjetil Mulelid is probably the most active, his excellent solo piano album was released only last month.
This album’s opener, ‘Le tapis volant’ is one of the reworked versions of previously released tracks, though this has a significantly different feel, the addition of vibes and steel guitar creates plenty of cinematic atmosphere. A pulse that runs through the studio version is retained but this tune is more genre-fluid, with a series of kaleidoscopic mood shifts and seamless transformations, everything about the dream-like ambience is in the right place, held together by that gentle pulse. The audience applause as it concludes comes as a shock as it doesn’t sound so much like a live recording.
The second track, ‘Hele verden er en boble’ was recorded on the same date but sounds much more live and musically it could be from a different set. The violin gives a classic jazz feel, there’s an element of free jazz too, as well a steel guitar for good measure. The eclecticism is perhaps not as seamless as on the opening tune; it’s a little forced in places and exaggerated in a slightly cartoonish fashion. The piece is long, clocking in at fourteen and a half minutes. Some passages have a Jarrett like vibe to them; it made me think of the uplifting yet slightly awkward album of his, Eyes of the Heart.
Later a great trio of tunes comes along starting with a short solo interlude by Kjetil Mulelid simply called ‘Piano’, this flows into the serene ‘En liten halvtime senere’, the Americana of the steel guitar combined with the Nordic ambience of the sax offers a strikingly unexpected sense of harmony and leads into ‘Stjerneskipet’ with it’s neatly articulated electronics that are beautifully interspersed throughout the soprano sax and piano parts, it’s brief but most definitely euphoric.
There may not be much hope of catching Waco live just yet but this document from last year will do nicely until that moment arrives.