Festival Review: Bodø Jazz Open, Stormy Weather in a Windy City

Written by | Festivals, News

To reach the northern Norwegian harbor town of Bodø, situated approximately 100 km north of the Arctic Circle, my journey involves two plane changes and a train trip from Bremen via Hamburg. Alternatively, the route from Munich spans 2,798 kilometers by car and ferry. Currently the European Capital of Culture for 2024, Bodø boasts a population of around 50,000 and among other activities is renowned for hosting one of the most Northern jazz festivals in Europe.

Jan Gunnar Hoff, a pianist, composer, and university lecturer, stands as one of the festivals founders and this year, took on a prominent role, showcasing his versatility through three performances, notably, the duo concert with singer Silje Nergaard on Sunday that was scheduled twice due to popular demand. On Monday, he presented the Hoff/Somsen/Lindholm trio, featuring a top-class performance in the concert hall of the Beddingen Cultural Centre, home to the Ad Lib Jazz Club. The groups CD, recorded in Copenhagen, lived up it’s the promise with the live performance. The final concert boasted an international lineup, with keyboardist Hoff, electric bassist Per Mathisen, British drummer Garry Husband, and French guitarist Nguyên Lê. It was clearly evident that there is an enthusiastic audience for both electric and acoustic jazz in Norway.

Jan Gunnar Hoff

Norwegian keyboardist Jørn Øien from Tromsø, likened to a northern Joe Zawinul, presented his band Cosmopolitan at the festival, captivating the audience. Commencing the concert with Weather Report’s “Stormy Weather,” Øien showcased his musical prowess. Accompanying the band, Sidiki Camara contributed with the Ngoni, Djembe, and his distinctive African vocals, adding to the band’s diverse repertoire.

On Wednesday, Steve Hackett & Djabe drew the largest crowd of approximately 500 attendees. The 74-year-old former Genesis guitarist, a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee, reaffirmed his iconic status. Together with Djabe, they demonstrated a collective musical prowess that firmly places them in the upper echelons of the industry.

During my stay at the festival, Storm Ingunn persisted for several days, significantly impacting the Nordland and Troms regions. The adverse weather conditions led to widespread disruptions, resulting in frequent flight cancellations and preventing many visitors from attending due to the challenging weather. On Thursday, February 1, 2024, a disaster alert was issued, urging the populations of Troms and Nordland to remain indoors. Despite these challenges, the festival’s team adeptly managed the inclement weather, navigating the situation with flying colours.

On the same day, the Norwegian tenor saxophonist and composer Marius Neset, along with his new group, presented selections from the current album “Happy.” Pianist Magnus Hjorth was absent, and in his place, pianist Elliot Galvin assumed the piano duties for this performance. The band delivered a high-energy performance, with notable rhythmic interplay between Neset and Anton Eger. The collaboration between these two British musicians within the ensemble was evident. The morning after, Bjørn Willadsen from the Central Norwegian Jazz Centre and manager of the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra remarked over breakfast, “Marius Neset has now reached the next level!” For those interested, the performance of “Happy” can be found on Youtube: Marius Neset Quartet, Bodø Jazz Open, 31/01/2024.

Hoff, Somsen, Lindholm trio

Ketil Bjørnstad, a prominent figure in the festival’s lineup, faced a delay in his scheduled performance due to Storm Ingunn. The concert was rescheduled to Friday, relocating to the modern church in Rønvik as an improvised venue. The pianist, composer, and writer, with a firm presence in Norwegian cultural life since the seventies, engaged in an extensive interview before the performance where he expressed his view that Mozart was a jazz pioneer and shared how his connection to the Abbey Road Studio served as a musical inspiration. Lady Madonna emerged as a significant muse, and the sizable audience rightfully celebrated his exceptional artistry that evening.

The penultimate concert of the festival marked the opening of the European Capital of Culture Bodø 2024, featuring three young Nordland musicians presenting distinct commissioned compositions alongside the Arktisk Filharmoni. The first performance showcased a trio led by Berlin-based jazz pianist and composer Joakim Rainer Petersen, accompanied by his favored saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock. Pianist Liv Andra Hauge contributed a piano trio with three vocalists incorporated into her composition, while Alexander Aarøen presented a longer classical piece for the orchestra. The stage hosted over 60 musicians at times, earning them a prolonged and enthusiastic applause from the full-capacity audience in the large concert hall.

The organization of a festival in the sparsely populated north of Norway is noteworthy, highlighting the prowess of the Norwegian team, supported by a well-connected jazz scene in the region. The comprehensive program encompassed 38 events, showcasing the cultural richness of the area. A special mention goes to the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra, situated north of the Arctic Circle. Despite still being in its establishment phase, the orchestra demonstrated effective functioning, contributing significantly to the festival’s cultural landscape.

In conclusion, The Northerners need not worry about their musical future.

Last modified: March 5, 2024