On 5 January Ronnie Scott’s will have a distinctly Nordic feel with a gig that celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Oslo Jazz Festival.
This gig sees the band Pixel, playing at the Soho club for the first time. They will be supporting the recent launch of theit new album “Golden Years” (REVIEWED), and performing in a double bill alongside a ‘super group’ of leading Norwegian jazz musicians, including players such as Matthias Eick (trumpet) and Trygve Seim (sax), who’ve all made an impact on the Oslo jazz festival over the years.
Since forming in 2011, Pixel too has generated its own wave of excitement with Norwegian and European jazz audiences, with its piano-free, modern jazz quartet format that combines the energy and attitude of the indie rock scene with the improvisational sensibility one often associates with jazz from across the North Sea. Rob Mallows spoke to Jonas Kilmork Vemøy (trumpet) and Harald Lassen (sax) from Pixel:
LondonJazz News: What can fans expect from this double bill of Norwegian jazz at Ronnie Scott’s?
Pixel (Jonas Kilmork Vemøy): It brings together a range of top musicians from the Norwegian scene to promote the 30th anniversary of the Oslo jazz festival. It was natural for Pixel to be a part of it as Ellen Andrea Wang, our bassist, is part of this all-star group. Many of the musicians in the band are also our friends. They haven’t played together before, so it’s more of an ad hoc collaboration to highlight the strength of Norwegian jazz. So London jazz fans will be hearing something new! As a band, Pixel is really excited to be playing alongside this group of musicians.
LJN: Last time Pixel played in London it was at the Vortex as part of the Match & Fuse festival. Now, you’re co-headlining at Ronnie Scott’s, the home of UK jazz. That demonstrates how far Pixel has come in a relatively short time – you must feel excited?
Harald Lassen: Yeah, of course. I’ve been to Ronnie Scott’s before but never played there. It’s a legendary place and it’s exciting for Pixel to play there. Our music aims to provide something for a broad audience of listeners and I’m confident it will go down really well with UK audiences. As a band we’ve always aimed to generate a strong band mentality and brand, if you will, that helps us define a clear sound for the band and makes us something more than just another jazz band. Doing something different such as making our award-winning music video for Call Me (above) is part of that approach.
LJN: What’s the reaction been to your recent touring in Europe and the new album, “Golden Years”.
Jonas Kilmork Vemøy Very positive. We’ve played lots of dates this year and the response from audiences and from the media has been really fantastic. With our new album, people are picking up on the fact that we’re not, as a band, constrained by the traditional conventions of the jazz format, and this allows us to create a sound that’s connecting with our audiences. This time around, Harald, Jon [Auden Bar, drummer] and I contributed vocals alongside Ellen [Andrea Wang, bassist and lead singer] on many of the songs. We all grew up in choirs and it’s been natural for us to sing more on this album.
At Ronnie Scott’s we’ll be playing a mixture of new songs from Golden Years plus some other tracks from our two other albums. We’re not sure yet exactly what we’ll play, but it will be exciting, that’s for sure. A Pixel concert has plenty of energy and we aim to create a great open atmosphere. One things we say to London fans: it’s quite hard to describe exactly what Pixel’s music is … but it’s very easy to like it!
LJN: This gig is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Oslo Jazz Festival. Nordic jazz seems to be in rude health looking from here in the UK – what do you think about the state of jazz in the region?
Jonas Kilmork Vemøy: The Norwegian jazz scene is very rich and has grown really well over the last thirty years. It’s great that a number of great players, such as Jan Garbarek, have achieved international success. Sometimes it can feel, I think, that Norwegian and Nordic jazz is often put into a box marked ‘experimental’, whereas with Pixel we’re clear that we don’t want to be linked to one particular scene or approach. We want to challenge the definition of Nordic jazz. Copenhagen’s really interesting right now, for example – musicians there are not afraid to mix different influences into their jazz.
LJN: How do you see the UK jazz scene at the moment?
Harald Lassen: It’s great. I know the UK scene pretty well; I’ve been working closely with the team from Match & Fuse and had recent experience touring with my band Mopti alongside the Laura Jurd Quartet. It’s a really positive scene right now, and there are some great young musicians who are grabbing the headlines. I’d pick out drummer Corrie Dick, saxophone player Jonathan Chung or bass player Brodie Jarvie from Scotland, who are all fantastic. In London particularly, as a jazz musician you really have to stand out and there’s a lot of competition between musicians in the UK that’s generating some great music.
RM: What’s next for Pixel as a band?
Harald Lassen: This short three-date tour in the UK and Holland is just the start, and we’re looking forward to playing lots more international gigs this year. We’re keen in particular to find new collaborators in the UK who can help us as the band is keen to play more dates in the UK, as we’ve had a great response so far from music fans here.
Pixel & The Oslo All-Star Jazz Band will play Ronnie Scott’s on 5th January (doors: 1800h, music: 1930h)