Tag Archives: Axel Dörner

JazzWrap review by Stephan Moore

Motif – Art Transplant Motif (CF 225)
Motif is a Norwegian quintet that is celebrating just over ten years on the scene. Each of the members has a stellar career on their own, but together they have produced four phenomenal albums that rely on modern thinking but root themselves in the traditional ethics of improvisation. Motif’s latest, Art Transplant is their first for Clean Feed Records after two acclaimed records for Jazzland and Aim.

Art Transplant feels like it was always going to be the right move for the band. It’s risky and combines elements of the ensemble’s modern thinking with more adventurous muscle than previous records. “Korean Barbeque Smokeout” starts with a bit of quiet investigation from Nymo before the rest of the band burst through with a collision of sound. The explosion rips the fabric of the harmonics and makes for a beautiful convergence of ideas; at times feeling like Ornette Coleman’s quartet circa Shape of Jazz To Come.

Dorner and Nymo provide an intense but also playful exchange at the beginning of “Alkiis” which later levels off to improvised dialogue between Dorner and Wiik. Gradually each member returns and the melody ebbs into exchanges for Wiik before the group finally comes full circle for a rousing conclusion.

The inquisitiveness of “Something For The Ladies” with Nymo on clarinet playing rich lines that reminded me of Don Byron. The piece is frenetic but with a soft tone just underneath the wind instruments. It’s sneaky like nice slice of spy-jazz from the 60s and great mid-section where Wiik gets to fly were some terrific improvised notes.

Motif has shown that each album is more diverse than the next. With a solid lineup that doesn’t seem to change, the ensemble is always in complete unison. And with Art Tansplant, they’ve shown that their unity breeds exciting creativity and fluidity.

Jazz Magazine review by Paul Jaillet

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Motif – Art Transplant (CF 225)
Sometimes I am unfamiliar with a group, don’t quite know what to expect, and it takes me a few listens to get acclimated. Like with Motif and their Art Transplant (Clean Feed 225).

The CD starts out with a minute or so of quiet air-through-instrument noises and then launches into the first composition, all except one of these written by contrabassist Ole Morten Vagan, who plays a forward role in the album as a bassist with style, imagination and melodic front-line aspirations. Axel Dorner handles the trumpet with some panache. Judging from the title billing (“with…”) and the liner blurb he is a guest on this date. Atle Nemo does some good work on tenor sax and, for one cut, bass clarinet. Pianist Havard Wiik, who we favorably encountered several days ago on the Side A trio session with Ken Vandermark and Chad Taylor, is firmly planted at the center of the proceedings on piano in a role that has something of Andrew Hill’s harmonic-melodic feel to it. Hakon Mjaset Johansen drives loosely on drums.

This is a date the sneaks up on you. The compositions are subtle and filled with some nice twists and turns. The improvisations are avant-melodic, new thing chromatics that expand the tonality to the edge and then bring it back for a moment, only to stray to the edge again. All four melody instruments do something worth hearing, and the drums are charged and give the forward momentum a kick as needed.

By the fourth listen I knew that this had something to it. If you like a freely articulated date with some interesting compositional underpinnings, with an overall thrust not unlike Andrew Hill’s later Blue Notes, this one will take care of your needs and give you pleasure. It’s another one of those Clean Feed sleepers. And it will wake you up. A good go of it!

Burning Ambulance review by Phil Freeman

Motif – Art Transplant (CF 225)
Motif is a Norwegian quartet (saxophonist Atle Nymo, pianist Håvard Wiik, bassist Ole Morten Vågan, drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen) that used to be a quintet. Trumpeter Eivind Lønning left in 2010, so for this record, their Clean Feed debut, they brought in a ringer: German experimental trumpeter Axel Dörner. They have four prior releases – 2004′s self-titled debut, 2006′s Expansion, 2008′s Apo Calypso, and last year, they put out a three-CD box, Facienda. I haven’t heard any of those records.

Musically, this disc is kind of bipolar. Dörner starts things off with nearly three minutes of scrowling, hissing and plosive bursts of air through the trumpet, without lowering himself to anything so vulgar as playing notes, but this is a mere (anti-)fanfare, as the band soon launches itself into relatively conventional, even swinging jazz territory on the first proper composition, “Moccasino,” and the trumpeter joins right in. After the head, though, the solos are squiggly and unadorned, the rhythm players dropping away entirely as Dörner and Nymo squawk and squabble. After a moment or two, Wiik rejoins, picking out a cautious melody before the full band resumes, trumpet and sax blowing long, long tones as the rhythm lurches around like an insect trying to flip itself off its back after being upended. Eventually, it all comes together again.

There’s a lot of code-switching like that throughout; the pieces (two of which, “Krakatau” and “Korean Barbeque Smokeout,” appeared in live versions on Facienda) are half-abstruse, half-gutbucket, and the result is weirdly exhilarating, not at all what one might come in expecting. In some ways, the group reminds me of Mostly Other People Do The Killing, minus the overt sense of pastiche. There’s humor here, but it’s not self-mocking; it’s just a kind of exuberance that’ll make you laugh in a childish-joy sort of way.

The group plays with great force, particularly bassist/bandleader Vågan; he slaps and yanks the strings with a brutal efficiency, and he leads the group through some ferocious grooves, particularly on “Lines for Swines,” which has an almost Charles Mingus-esque energy to it. On “Something for the Ladies,” Nymo switches from tenor sax to bass clarinet—I don’t know that I’ve ever considered the bass clarinet an instrument of seduction, and even if I had, his valve-flapping solo on this piece would leave me thoroughly unconvinced. It’s only at about the halfway point, when it begins to swing (like a corpse on a rope), that the group really puts their strengths on display, particularly drummer Johansen, who tosses in lots of little filigrees. But when it gets going, it really goes, and the same is true of pretty much every track on Art Transplant.

This CD arrived unexpectedly, I put it in the player on a whim, and was very pleasantly surprised by what I heard. Dörner’s opening solo piece, which I’m unlikely to ever play again, is the sole exception; it’s just too reminiscent of the sounds in horror movies about evil locations, like Session 9 or Yellowbrickroad, for my taste. Motif have just enough hard bop and swing at the core of their lurching free jazz to keep my melodic “sweet tooth” satisfied, while displaying all the “extended technique” any fan of Euro improv could ask for.

Time Out Lisboa review by Jose Carlos Fernandes

Motif – Art Transplant (CF 225)
Ao quarto disco, o quarteto norueguês expandiu-se a quinteto, acolhendo o trompetista alemão Axel Dörner, e mudou-se para a editora portuguesa Clean Feed. O seu líder, o contrabaixista Ole Morten Vagan (OVG), é uma referência do jazz europeu e o público português conhecê-lo-á pelo precioso contributo que tem dado aos grupos de Júlio Resende. O quinteto passou recentemente pelo Jazz às Quintas, na Cafetaria do CCB.

Ultrapassados os três minutos de estertores de trompete solo que abrem o disco, entra-se em território menos árido: um pós-bop tingido de melodias evocativas do jazz clássicos dos anos 50-60 e impulsionado por uma secção rítmica angulosa e irrequieta. OVG mostra o seu talento com o arco na abertura de “Krakatau”, num solo bem original, que começa como zumbido inquietante e persistente e desabrocha em mil cores e inflexões. Em “Something for the Ladies”, que é impelido por um ritmo irresistível, é a vez de o pianista Havard Wiik ter um solo demolidor. “Lines for Swines” faz lembrar a excitação hipnótica do Coltrane dos anos 60 e tem no seu centro um corrosivo solo de trompete sobre uma turbulência rítmica insana.

Art Transplant mostra como se pode conciliar inovação e tradição e como o moderno jazz europeu não se conforma ao estereótipo de cerebralidade e frieza a que por vezes é associado – nos Motif, a palvra-chave é exuberância.

A lista das faixas na capa do CD está equivocada e os títulos aludidos neste texto seguem a ordem que se encontra nos sites para download de MP3.

Free Jazz review by Stef

Motif – Art Transplant (CF 225)
Motif is a Nowegian band with Atle Nymo on tenor, Håvard Wiik on piano,  Ole Morten Vågan on double bass, and Håkon Mjåset Johansen on drums. They are joined for the occasion by German trumpeter Axel Dörner. All five musicians form the traditional bop quintet, and that’s how they sound. With music that is composed, fully arranged and structured …. but with a twist. They are indeed the masters of deconstruction and reconstruction, abandoning their themes for wild or fun or experimental explorations, yet always falling back on the composed backbone of the piece.

This kind of explains the “Art Transplant” in the title, elements are taken out and replaced by different stuff, invented on the spot and integrated in the old structure. Critics could say that this is a nice trick to keep jazz artificially alive, yet the contrary is true : the band demonstrates how much of the jazz tradition is still of use today, and what a rich treasure trove it is for today’s language of expression. The music is also fun to listen to with lots of playful elements. The playing and the stylistic shifts are really exceptional, yet they at times seem to overshadow the emotional power needed to make this a truly great album.

In contrast to “Facienda”, the band’s triple CD of live and sturio recordings released earlier this year, “Art Transplant” is much more coherent in its approach.

A strong stylistic achievement.