Tag Archives: Håvard Wiik

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.

All About Jazz review by Mark Corroto

Side A – A New Margin (CF 235)
It is quite rare to hear multi-reedist Ken Vandermark record or perform with a pianist, the reason being that, back in the day (the early 1990s), his brand of new Chicago jazz was presented much like the hardcore punk scene of the previous decade—out of the back of a van. Like Henry Rollins and Black Flag, Vandermark’s life was one of constant travel, setting up and breaking down, only to move on to the next show.

Needless to say, his nomadic lifestyle was not conducive to trucking a piano around.

One of the few exceptions to the piano rule has been Norwegian Håvard Wiik—one-third of the chamber jazz trio Free Fall with Vandermark and bassist Inbebrigt Håker Flaten and a guest on Vandermark 5’s The Horse Jumps and The Ship Is Gone (Not Two, 2010).

Wiik’s role in Side A, like that in his band Atomic, is to relieve Vandermark of his organizational role—order being a natural habit for a chordal instrument. With the saxophonist and drummer Chad Taylor, Wiik also shares in the songwriting, making A New Margin an invigorating take on the jazz trio.

Freed of the responsibility for song structure, Vandermark can focus on being a soloist. His tenor (and the occasional clarinet) tone is liberated, and sounds quite liberating. With Taylor’s drums chasing Wiik’s hammering piano for the first three minutes of “What Is Is,” the saxophonist marches in response to the call. He sings the songs on this record, balanced and supported by Wiik and Taylor.

This trio also stabilizes this music without a bassist. The dynamic Taylor, best known for his work with the various Chicago Underground bands and the Exploding Star Orchestra, provides a constant energy here, maintaining a noisily free sound on “Fold” or supporting the abstractions of “Arborization” and “Permanent Sleeve (Walking Hand).” The session mixes the outward avant with some swinging bop-centered swing, even delving into {{Phillip Glass}|-like territory on Wiik’s “The Kreuzberg Variations,” building upon a repeating structure, only to be destroyed by entropy—sweet, free jazz entropy.

Jazz Magazine review by Paul Jaillet

Jazz Magazine review by Paul Jaillet

Tomajazz review by Pachi Tapiz

Side A – A New Margin (CF 235)
No es la primera vez que el saxofonista y clarinetista Ken Vandermark colabora con el pianista de Atomic Havard Wiik. Ambos, junto al baterista Chad Taylor, han puesto en marcha la formación Side A, que se estrena con A New Margin. Los tres músicos se reparten casi a partes iguales la composición de los diez temas. Esto influye en la variedad de una propuesta que entronca con el free-bop, pero que también se permite otros momentos de una mayor abstracción. No es habitual encontrar a pianistas en las formaciones de Vandermark, aunque Wiik demuestra nuevamente que es un magnífico compañero para el de Boston. Chad Taylor, imprescindible en la escena de Chicago, muestra aquí sus poderosas razones musicales. El resultado quizás no sea la obra cumbre de una discografía tan abundante como la de Ken Vandermark, aunque estamos una vez más ante un muy buen disco.

Downbeat review by Bill Meyer

Side A – A New Margin Clean Feed (CF 235)
4 Stars
Last time I checked his website, Ken Vandermark had 18 different configurations going. Why so many? One obvious reason is that he thrives on variety, and the peripatetic Chicagoan accomplishes very different things playing solo, in the brutally amplified quartet Lean Left, and with his multi-national big band, the Resonance Ensemble. But another is that he is quite conscious of the way exchanging one player for another can so change a group that it’s not the same anymore. He’s played for a decade with Norwegian pianist Håvard Wiik in the trio Free Fall, which also includes bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. Side A swaps Håker Flaten for drummer Chad Taylor, a New Yorker with Chicago roots, and with that change comes an entirely different sensibility. Free Fall is a chamber group, indebted to the exacting explorations of timbre and nuance laid out on Jimmy Giuffre’s album of the same name; Side A is a composer’s collective that gravitates to strong melodies and stronger rhythms. New man, new concept, new content — it’s a new band.

With three composers each pursuing diverse concerns, Side A’s debut CD never stays in one place for long, or evenfor a song. Vandermark’s “Boxer” bridges the gap between Bach and Monk, with Taylor’s drumming issuing a TonyWilliams-like undercurrent of dissent throughout. Wiik’s “The Kreuzberg Variations” exemplifies the eclecticism of the Berlin neighborhood after which it is named by shifting from lighter-than-air improv to Philip Glass-like repetition to a full-bore blowout in just seven minutes. Taylor’s “Trued Right” punctuates a stately, McCoy Tyner-esque theme with a Latin piano flourish underpinned by a lockstep beat. But even the most abrupt shifts never feel awkward. In an age when anyone with a computer can hear anything, it would belazy not to deal with all that information out there. The trio makes its contrasting elements cohere into pieces as complex and challenging as 21st century life; this is what jazz sounds like right now.

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!

JazzWrap review by Stephan Moore

Side A – A New Margin (CF 235)
A Ken Vandermark record is always a welcomed addition in the JazzWrap office. And Vandermark’s newest project, Side A is a massive inclusion to the catalog.

The trio formed last year but somehow it feels like they’ve played together for much longer; Vandermark and Wiik have been together in various projects (Vandermark 5, Atomic/School Days, and Free Fall). A New Margin (Clean Feed), the trio’s debut, is a document of their collaborative efforts over the last year.

Side A kicks the proceedings off with the slow moving and haunting “Boxer.” It’s like a mystery ride that never seems to end and you’re constantly turned on to some new element in the piece. Whether it’s the plodding downward keys of Wiik, the sky-rocketing velocity of Vandermark on sax, or Taylor’s free-wheeling movement on the kit–this is a journey that’s going to take many different shapes before its done.

“Arborizaltion” flows peacefully with each member improvising in between the space. It’s not wild movements; more a steady pattern of ideas that all fold together in one harmonic gesture.

When “The Kreuzberg Variations” first came on I was startled by the spacial depth of the piece. It’s a classical movement as the title would suggest but with more owed to the Steve Reich motif than Brandenberg. The piece builds and builds until its boisterous conclusion where musician and sound collide in what is quite a beautiful noise.

“Giacometti” is a blustery but euphoric number that sees the trio bouncing sound off each other. Taylor adds a delicate touch in the beginning, while Vandermark and Wiik create some vivid colour spectrums. This comes to a rousing denouement that nicely bookends the possession filled opening of the “Boxer.”

Side A is yet another in long list of progressive outings from Ken Vandermark and company that challenges the way we think of jazz and how it will expand. A New Margin is by far one Vandermark’s best projects (outside of Vandermark 5) of the last 12 months. Great stuff.

Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

Side A – A New Margin (CF 235)
In one of Ken Vandermark’s many projects, he plays in “Free Fall”, a trio format with Norwegian pianist Havard Wiik and Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten, as a tribute band to the music of Jimmy Giuffre.

Now we find him again in the company of Wiik, but accompanied by Chicagoan Chad Taylor on drums. Like with Free Fall, this trio is also strongly rooted in jazz tradition, with fixed (?) rhythms, elaborated compositions and harmonic development. The musical skills demonstrated by all three musicians are staggering, both on their instruments as in the phenomenal interplay, yet as so often with great albums, the quality of the music itself is what really counts and it also receives their full attention.

Wiik is a stylist, someone with a gentle touch, and strong sense of lyricism, and his combination with Vandermark’s incredible skills of shifting from patterns to breaking them and back again in one seamless motion work well with Taylor’s rhythmic complexities. Actually, all three excell in the key ingredients : lyricism, powerplay and tradition-pushing.

The tunes range from sweet, as in “Trued Right”, or abstract bluesy, as on “Arborization”, to clever rhythm-shifting in the phantastic and genre-crossing “The Kreuzberg Variations” to powerplay on “Comeling”. There is madness to be heard, yet controlled or contained, and joined with some more universal feelings as melancholy and tenderness. The variation is great, as are the compositions, almost equally divided among the members of the trio.

The line-up is unusual too (check on the “Sax Piano Drums Trio” in the right column to get to know more of them), yet one that works extremely well because it offers harmonic, rhythmic and a wealth of solo opportunities, while keeping the improvisational freedom of a small ensemble.

In any case, great stuff, and not to be missed.

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.