HÅKON KORNSTAD: Symphonies In My Head (Jazzland Recordings)

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Posted on Nov 15th 2011 01:38 am

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Håkon Kornstad: Symphonies In My Head

HÅKON KORNSTAD
Symphonies In My Head
2786027
Jazzland Recordings 2011
08 Tracks. 46mins36secs

Gube Music: DLD iTunes: DLD

Håkon Kornstad’s Symphonies In My Head is a rather ambitious attempt at capturing the music that the Norwegian saxophonist had in mind during this album’s gestation period. A founding member of Wibutee, a band with whom he has released four album between 1998 and 2006 and which, although never disbanded, has been dormant since, the Oslo-born musician has been busy with various other projects, including the trio he formed with Mats Eilertsen and Paal Nilssen-Love, and collaborative work with Nilssen-Love and Håvard Wiik amongst others.

In 2007, Kornstad published his first solo effort, Single Engine (Jazzland). Entirely improvised, and recorded in Bugge Wesseltoft’s studio over the course of six months, the album collected a series of extremely delicate acoustic pieces centred around tenor and bass sax, flutes and melodica. On Dwell Time, which followed two years later, again on Jazzland, Kornstad took on a different approach as he experimented with loops and layers. Conceived whilst on tour, Symphonies In My Head was, like its predecessor, recorded at the Sofienberg church in Oslo, earlier this year. The album follows a similar principal to that devised for Dwell Time, but here, Kornstad adds celeste and sansula, a thumb piano, to his palette, and uses rhythmic components to infuse his improvisations with a more hypnotic feel.

The album opens with a rhythmic pattern which Kornstad creates by looping the sound of keys being pressed and released, and a distant hiss, upon which he applies increasingly potent strips of tenor sax. Damascus and Flutter also use rhythmic elements, the former in somewhat sober fashion, with loops of bass sax providing an anchoring point for the rather introspective melody which is placed above, whilst the latter builds from flute textures clustered into a hypnotic grooves, which is then enriched with smooth flute motifs first, then tenor sax sequences.

The music is however here once again extremely delicate, minimal and nuanced, as Kornstad constantly plays with clair-obscure tones and creates mood areas from exquisite loops, over which he layers breezy melodies on tenor sax, flute or flutonette, (a flute equipped with a saxophone mouthpiece). Pieces such as Aire, Mandal or the wonderfully evocative Plystre, which closes the album, are particularly haunting and dreamy, something which Kornstad emphasises on the latter piece by adding vocal textures, a node to his growing interest in operatic work, and a gentle motif whistled over dying loops toward the end.

Sansula also proves a particularly sumptuous ethereal piece, built around a delicate shimmer of celeste and thumb piano, upon which Kornstad adds earthy swathes of flutonette to give it a slightly oriental feel, whilst on ABA, he appears to return to the entirely acoustic settings of Single Engine for a moment.

With his solo records, Håkon Kornstad is slowly devising a universe away from his collaborative work, where he can experiment with subtle musical touches and experiment freely with his instruments. This allows him to progressively push the boundaries of his improvised work and give it incredible depth and substance. Symphonies In My Head may be more elaborate than its predecessors, yet it retains the exact same urgency. Whatever symphonies Kornstad had in his head when working on this album, they have become beautiful pieces for us all to hear.

4.9/5

Håkon Kornstad | Jazzland Recordings
Gube Music: DLD iTunes: DLD

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One Response to “HÅKON KORNSTAD: Symphonies In My Head (Jazzland Recordings)”

  1. THE 2011 REVIEW | themilkfactoryon 22 Dec 2011 at 1:00 pm

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