2009 Silda Jazz Fest
" Eclectic Blues with a Norwegian Accent "
Haugesund, Norway, August 12th-16th
This year's Silda Jazz Festival was their twenty-third. The very first festival was a combined film/Jazz festival with only a few traditional jazz bands performing. Not anymore, as now we have five marvelous days of varied music on the picturesque west coast of Norway. In addition to all the outstanding Norwegian artists visiting, Silda Jazz had the pleasure of presenting jazz and Blues dignitaries such as: The Guitar Conference Band featuring four stellar guitarists; (Chuck Loeb, Russell Malone, Pat Martino and Mark Whitfield,) Peter Cincotti, an All Star Celebration of Lionel Hampton (with Dianne Shuur, Nicholas Payton, Lew Soloff, Blue Note Records' great Curtis Fuller, the ageless wonder Red Holloway and others,) plus Karrin Allyson, and New Orleans own Bonerama.
On my first night at Silda I got to see the Guitar Conference Band, which was a guitar player's heaven. The band played in several configurations, four-five tunes with all four guitarists with full band, then with one guitarist separately featured in the band which consisted of Jersey's own Matt King's piano, Wolfgang Haffner from the band Metro (which also features Chuck Loeb) and a fill-in bass player whose name I did not get, where the only unfortunate thing was the great Will Lee (who also plays with Metro) was listed in the program guide but was not in attendance. This fine band also performed "Alone Together" with just all four guitarists (no drums, bass, and keys), which was captivating.
Needless to say, there was a lot of talent here, and for the most part the Guitar Conference did not disappoint. I would have liked to have seen them engage each other more readily, but as a full blown band these guys were a tour de force, which was instantly evident on the Wes Montgomery opener "Four On Six," as well as on the set closing (also by Montgomery) "Road Song," which was performed at breakneck speed. The encore was a remotely reminiscent version of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and, man, did these six string masters rev it up!
Kudos to Chuck Loeb who was by far the most energized on stage and looked to be band leader. Loeb was also largely responsible for gritting out the most Blues, not only from his own spectacular guitar work, but for igniting some intense grease from Pat Martino's fret board. Whitfield was the most soulful of the bunch, but Malone seemed the least enthused, yet had some fine moments.
On my second night I attended Peter Cincotti's performance, which really was not my cup of tea, as this youngster sounds a bit like a younger want-to-be version of Harry Connick Jr. but lacked the depth and soul of Connick.
Other performances I witnessed included the jazz trio (piano, bass and drums) of Helge Lien which was too abstract and obtuse for my tastes. Oslo-based Noora Noor and her large band of twelve pieces (with three background singers, and a fine horn section) tried to be a southern soul/funk band, but amidst trying their very best lets just say they did not put up the needed ooze necessary to make it happen.
At the Irish Viking club Luther Kent's band featured band organizer H.R. Ziifle on guitar, bassist Glen LeBlanc, ex-Tab Benoit drummer Allyn Robinson, and Bruce Elsensohn who consistently impresses each and every time I hear his extremely imaginative piano solos. Big Luther was particularly in great vocal form and simply loved ruling the roost with captivating the room with his strong vocals, which literally destructed the Irish Viking club nightly!
The Silda concert organizers must be happy with Kent, as this was his third straight year back at Silda, quite impressive, and can we say four years might be imminent? One of the highlights of Luther's set included three trombone members of Bonerarma sitting in for a couple of sets. Plus pianist Elsenshohn's amazing abilities shown through when his keyboard rig fell apart, and Bruce calmly picked up his piano, put it on his lap and kept on playing!
On two successive evenings bassist Kolbein Tjelle and the The Electric Coil Blues Band opened and closed for Luther and put on very fine performances. Big thanks to Kolbein (and his family and friends) for their kind/annual hospitality for having a barbeque for the band every year, as it's nice to chat (and listen) to Blues music with the local Norwegians to learn of their deep knowledge and admiration of Blues.
As I wrote last year, Silda Jazz is a world-class event that cares well for its patrons and also treats the performers royally. Speaking of being well cared for, I would personally like to thank Silda Jazz's Bjarne Dankel Jr. and press coordinator Unni Hilt for making my stay in Norway so very special.
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com