Review: The Hanna Paulsberg Concept and Flashmob at the Salisbury

Hanna Paulsberg at the Salisbury, May 2012
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved
The Hanna Paulsberg Concept and Flashmob
(Jazz at The Salisbury, 6th May 2012; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

‘Jazz at the Salisbury’ is building up a quality portfolio of fortnightly events. This double bill, marking the first appearance of a Scandinavian band in the series – The Hanna Paulsberg Concept – teamed with Ryan Williams‘s London-based Flashmob, was inspired programming which brought together two highly able and intelligent quartets, each showcasing self-penned compositions.

Hanna Paulsberg‘s quartet had headed for Harringay for their only London performance, after an appearance at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival which celebrated the links between the Trondheim Jazz Exchange, where they had studied, and the Birmingham Conservatoire. From their first notes they impressed with their confidence and natural sense of pacing and modulation. There was a sensitivity and a close interconnectedness binding the group and a feeling that they were fast outgrowing their apprenticeship in the shadow of their heroes. Paulsberg’s stated admiration for Wayne Shorter was a clue to their roots – acknowledging a heritage and direction rooted in the jazz coming out of the States rather than the recent Scandinavian sound – and this was rather refreshing – they didn’t let themselves get typecast and were all the stronger for it.

The mature, melodic streak running through their material was executed with exemplary style. Keeping to the modernist spirit, Paulsberg is highly motivated, yet low-key, and fashioned a stream of rippling, fullsome runs, which thrived on the group’s quick-witted interplay. Paulsberg’s warm-toned tenor was brightly balanced by Oscar Grönberg‘s energetic electric piano, with its mischievous, tetchy 60s-style distortion and Hans Hulbaekmo‘s driving percussion, all rounded off by Trygve Fiske‘s fluent bass lines. Fiske was on a a roll, he told me, still revelling in the experience of a jam session with Chris Potter the previous evening at Cheltenham!

As well as Shorter, who was the inspiration for Paulsberg’s strong, nuanced ‘Short Story’, there were touches of Zawinul in Grönberg’s racing piano flourishes, of Holland in Fiske’s calm fluency and maybe an echo of Elvin Jones in Hulbaekmo’s polyrhythms and changes of pace. This was all in service of setting down their credentials while giving expression to their own distinctive voices in a highly enjoyable and eloquent London debut.

And how did the Salisbury and Birmingham Jazz manage to persuade this dynamic, emerging Norwegian-based outfit to make the detour? Perhaps it was partly in the knowledge that the Norwegian Government funds the emerging jazz scene with great generosity – if only the UK’s government arts sponsorship bodies would take a leaf out of their book.

Rory Simmons at the Salisbury, May 2012
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved
Flashmob were anything but ‘flash’ and impressed with their subtlety and range. Highly versatile, astutely focused and technically accomplished, they gave a captivating spin to Williams’s layered compositions, which twisted and turned in the manner of Jim Hall’s textured small group arrangements. Boundaries were noted, but only to open the doors to the territory beyond, which they explored with an inquiring composure. Reading off scores, they retained freshness and invention in their excursions. Rory Simmons took the lead on ‘Top Shelf’ and ‘O.A.C. (Reprise)’ from their engaging debut album, ‘Generals’, with clear, sharp trumpet sequences that were complemented by Ryan Williams, who slipped in to a deceptively reclusive guitar mode, carefully soft and chordal, before loosening the reins to quietly let rip. Nick Smalley, deft and precise on percussion and Will Collier‘s crafted bass furnished the ensemble with the cornerstone for their gently subversive perspective, which offered both respect for a good tune and a refreshing refusal to follow the predictable route. A really bright set, which put the perfect stamp on an enriching evening’s music.

The Salisbury, on Green Lanes, is promising more top flight talent in the next few weeks – an excellent venue with very reasonable entrance fees, the series is unmissable, and is a must for the Harringay and north London jazz audience! Be there, or …

The Hanna Paulsberg Concept
Hanna Paulsberg: saxophone
Trygve Waldemar Fiske: acoustic bass
Hans Hulbaekmo: drums
Oscar Grönberg: electric piano

Ryan Williams: guitar
Rory Simmons: trumpet
Will Collier: double bass
Nick Smalley: drums

Categories: miscellaneous

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