Norwegian sax player and composer Harald Lassen is back in London in March with a new quartet playing tracks from his most recent album “Rainbow Session.” In April he will be coming back to the capital with his bandmates in Pixel, the indie-jazz group which garners bigger and bigger audiences each time it plays in town.
Harald Lassen, who celebrates his thirtieth birthday next week, is a product of the highly creative jazz scene in Oslo and has played in a number of bands including the aforementioned Pixel, Mopti, Bendik Baksaas and sax/bass duo Duplex and toured with a number of UK musicians. After releasing Rainbow Session to some acclaim in 2016 he is bringing this looser, freer music to live audiences in London and Norway as part of a short tour. As well as playing a full gig at Spice of Life on 22 March the quartet will play a brief warm-up gig earlier in the evening nearby at Ronnie Scott’s. Rob Mallows interviewed Lassen on Skype:
London Jazz News: Tell us about your quartet – there have been some changes from the players with whom you recorded “Rainbow Session.”
Harald Lassen: Yes, it’s a new line-up. I recorded the album with Belgium’s LABtrio’s and pianist Bram de Looze from the trio is still with me in this new band, but I have recruited an explosive rhythm section from my home country of Norway: they are Stian Andersen on bass and Tore Flatjord on drums. It’s a quartet I think is ideally suited to bring out the musical ideas I express on my most recent album.
LJN: What can the audience expect for your upcoming Spice of Life show?
HL: I was really happy with the ideas that came out of the whirlwind recording that became Rainbow Session and this show is our first opportunity to play them live for UK audiences. The gig will be a continuation of the creative output captured on the album but the tunes will be a little tighter and further developed. I’m really excited about the show and these compositions.
LJN: You’ve indicated that you were inspired in part by the 1970’s. How, exactly?
HL: Well, I wasn’t born in the 70s, so I’m not sure where it’s come from really. But in the music from the era I hear a lot of hope and happiness; I hear that particularly in Keith Jarrett’s American quartets, I really sense something strongly positive. There’s a lot of groove and sus-4 chords that I love, and strong melodies. They are so important in my writing: I always want my melodies to feel very organic, and not so composed, and that is really evident on my most recent album.
LJN: There’s a strong link to impressionism in some of the compositions.
HL: If you listen to some of the tracks on the album, especially Your Impression, you’ll hear elements inspired by impressionistic classical music such as Debussy and Sibelius. I’m don’t consciously seek to mix classical and jazz; rather, I’m composing in my own way and drawing on the music that’s inspiring me at the time and classic music is an important part of my musical background.
LJN: You’ve played a lot in London and the UK over the years – not just with Pixel but touring with Laura Jurd and Elliot Galvin among others. There’s obviously a strong connection for you with the jazz scene over here.
HL: For sure. For many Norwegian players the focus is often the German market. If you do well there, there’s really little incentive to broaden your horizons and play elsewhere. But for me I’ve always been drawn to the UK’s position as a global centre for music, with lots of connections to every part of the world. Musically there’s always so much going on and I like being part of that.
LJN: What else can London jazz fans expect to hear from Harald Lassen in 2017?
HL: I’m busy with Pixel at the moment – we’re in the UK in April and then again in the autumn – and we hope to release some new live videos soon that look really, really great. We cannot realistically release an album every year as there’s so much else coming out to compete with, so we have to think a little differently, which is why we’re going down the video route. I’m also playing regularly with Duplex, my duo with bass player Christian Meaas Svendsen. So, life’s really busy!
LINK: Harald Lassen website.