IN THE COUNTRY:
The members of In the Country have carved out their own personal ledge in the piano trio mountain. With pianist and composer Morten Qvenild (Susanna & the Magical Orchestra, Jaga Jazzist, sPacemoNkey) as frontman, they have tread paths that no other piano trio before them has ventured to walk. After a series of critically acclaimed releases on Rune Grammofon and the German label ACT Music.
TRAIL OF SOULS:
"Connecting the unexpected" is the motto of Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic, a concert series curated and produced by ACT label boss Siggi Loch, which began in December 2012. The 'Norwegian Woods' edition of the series in March 2014 experienced an amazing evening. Loch had assembled the A-team of Norwegian jazz, and created the unexpected by combining them with a guest artist from a different musical realm:
Solveig Slettahjell was one such artist welcomed back into the fold. The ACT label released her early albums, establishing her international reputation as one of Europe's leading jazz vocalists. Here she was partnered up with In The Country, the piano trio involving her close friend Morton Qvenild, pianist, sonic explorer and also a member of Solveig Slettahjell's Slow Motion ensembles. The real surprise that evening, however, came from adding the blues guitarist Knut Reiersrud. He had been on Siggi Loch's radar for quite some time, and on this occasion was having his first ever meeting with Slettahjell and her crew. It turned out to be an ideal combination. The evening was a celebration of everything that had made the Nordic sound so attractive and successful for many decades. On the one hand there was the elegiac, bluesy side, inspired by the spirit of indigenous folk music; on the other the electronic, the rhythmically daring and the experimental.
Then followed a huge amount of careful preparation and several rehearsals in Morten Qvenild's private studio, after which all the musicians ended up in the celebrated Rainbow Studio in Oslo to give the original idea a definitive shape. All eleven tracks, with the exception of the final number, a song composed by Reiersrud, are blues and gospel classics in the broadest sense. There are three from stars of pop and soul music - Bill Withers "Grandma's Hand", Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street" and Leonard Cohen's "Come Healing" - but beyond those the others are the kind of tunes only familiar to initiates such as Reiersrud. "We did all rummage through our record collections and chose a few old work songs and spirituals together," says Slettahjell, "but Knut is the really knowledgeable one among us."
The procession of songs on "Trail of Souls" takes in, for example, the emotional traditional song "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child," and that staple of gospel church services, "His Eye Is On The Sparrow," and the memorable "Don't Feel Noways Tired" by the King of Gospel, the Reverend James Cleveland. From older pieces by Blind Willie Johnson, James Anderson and Richard M. Jones – with the evergreen song "Trouble in Mind" - the selection comes up to date with the song "Is My Living In Vain?" by Elbernita 'Twinkie' Clark, a gospel star and two-time Grammy winner.
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