Norwegian Jazz Trio Remixing European Jazz Culture

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Norwegian Jazz Trio Remixing European Jazz Culture

The musicians represented in the trio Gurls are exponents of a new generation in Norwegian music life. The music is so rich and intangible, and the presentation methods so fresh, that the label ‘Norwegian jazz’ is hardly adequate anymore. The Norwegian jazz trio is remixing European jazz culture.

In her book ‘Remixing European Jazz Culture’ Kristin McGee writes that “GURLS has gained a reputation for both their compelling live performances and for the originality of their newly composed material as represented on their last album ‘Run boy, run’ (Grappa 2018). The compositions and lyrics of this trio, composed primarily by saxophonist Paulsberg, reflect these relatively young musicians’ experience of jazz labor, music desire, media and global culture in the new Europe.”

Norwegian Jazz Trio Remixing European Jazz Culture
The compositions and lyrics of this trio, are composed primarily by saxophonist Paulsberg

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“Run, boy run” is in fact the trio’s debut album and a playful collection of songs full of humor and irony, addressing gender, sexuality and life as as single, among other subjects. In their performances the three ladies appear as a very original (and funky) unit with their combination of vocals, saxophone and double bass. Each of them is rising stars in the Norwegian jazz scene.

Norwegian Jazz Trio Remixing European Jazz Culture
GURLS. Photo by Julia Marie Nagelstad/Norsk Filminstitutt

Hanna Paulsberg, Ellen Andrea Wang and Rohey Taalah have each managed to leave their mark in Norway and abroad, and will most likely tickle our ear canals for decades to come. With the whimsical instrumentation of tenor saxophone, double bass and soul jazz vocals, Gurls does not have particularly tough competition in the market. Paulsberg’s saxophone harmonizes the other two voices to form eight minor triads progressing from tonic to dominant and back to tonic.

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The ensemble’s arrangements take full advantage of the unique timbres and colors afforded by no drums, piano, or guitar. Sometimes Paulsberg and Wang sing backup harmonies to Taalah’s main vocals, and other times only one voice casts in harmony with the bass and tenor saxophone. As band leader and composer, Paulsberg fluently adapts her instrument to reconfigure the quintessential and expected ‘jazz voice’ of live instrumental jazz culture.

Norwegian Jazz Trio Remixing European Jazz Culture
Rohey Taalah with GURLS at the DnB-stage at Grefsenkollen. The concert was part of Over Oslo and took place on 23. June 2018 in Oslo. ..Lineup:.Ellen Andrea Wang (double bass).Hanna Paulsberg (saxophone).Rohey Taalah (vocal).Elias Tafjord (drums). Photo: Wikipedia

In particular moments, the saxophone momentarily relinquishes its role as the solo instrumental object to become a harmonized and mimetic human voice. At other moments, Taalah adapts her vocal timbres and textures to promote her instrumentalism as established within jazz performance practice.

Singer Rohey Taalah celebrates success in Norway with the soulful jazz of her band Rohey. In Gurls she reveals a remarkably adventurous and challenging side of her talent. Saxophonist Hanna Paulsberg is also making name with her own jazz group and she has previously played with international greats such as Chick Corea, Bugge Wesseltoft and Bobo Stenson. Double bassist and singer Ellen Andrea Wang has already performed at the BIMHUIS with her band Pixel and she has collaborated with, among others, Sting and Manu Katché.

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Paulsberg is known for writing songs about boys, also in her other bands, and she likes to talk about them between the songs, live. Just listen to her wonderful jazz hit “Catalan Boy”. So, she is something as rare as an autobiographical singer/songwriter who operates in an instrumental jazz format.

According to JazzFlits ‘Gurls operates in the area between jazz, pop and hip-hop, in songs with an urgency and fierceness that will lift you out of your seat. Gurls makes music that cannot be ignored’.

Norwegian Jazz Trio Remixing European Jazz Culture
Ellen Andrea Wang has already performed at the BIMHUIS with her band Pixel and she has collaborated with, among others, Sting and Manu Katché. Photo: Ole B. Steinsvik/Moldejazz

Paulsberg’s solos captures the moody, millennial malaise of her jazz aesthetic when arranged and filtered through Taalah’s lyrical voice, and although Paulsberg exhibits much virtuosity and technical control, her improvisational approach resides an unbridged, indulgent style or an earlier Northern European jazz collectivism.

GURLS is performing at the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway just now.

Norwegian Jazz Trio Remixing European Jazz Culture, written by Tor Kjolberg, inspired by the album ‘Run boy, run’ and the bookRemixing European Jazz Culture’ by Kristin McGee.

Feature image on top photographed by Julia Marie Nagelstad/Norsk Filminstitutt.