CD reviews

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & The MaXx – ‘Live’

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & The MaXx – Live (MNJ Records MNJ002. Review by Peter Slavid)

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & The MaXx Live album cover

I have to admit I was always going to be favourably predisposed towards a big-band album with a press release advising that “to capture the steaming atmosphere of the theatre on a hot summer’s night in Molde, it should be played on a high volume!” Certainly the physical power of a big band in full flow is a big part of the pleasure I get from that sort of music and I can’t wait to be back in a small room in front of a full band.

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The Trondheim Jazz Orchestra is well known these days, having worked with some great musicians and produced around 20 albums over the last 15 years. It always manages to pull together some of the finest Scandinavian improvisers, and here includes Thomas Johansson on trumpet, Petter Hängsel on trombone and recorder, Anja Lauvdal on keyboards and saxophonists Mette Rasmussen and Kjetil Møster.

Their guests on this album are The MaXx, a young band comprising Trondheim-trained Swedes Oscar Grönberg on keyboards, Petter Kraft on guitar, saxophone and vocals, and Tomas Järmyr on drums. As a band they are quite new, although individually the three musicians have been seen with Hanna Paulsberg, Megalodon and others. They describe this music as having a theme based around dystopian sci-fi and time travel. Certainly there is a retro feel to some of the music, as well as its description as an “abstract rock opera”.

In fact the album starts in a gentle and lyrical way in keeping with the track title Jazzballaden. It doesn’t take long before the rhythms become more fragmented, the volume and the power goes up, and we get blistering solos from Møster and Johansson.

In the middle of four long tracks there’s a strange, short 1:38 folk-rock track which could easily have come from the psychedelic period of Fairport Convention.

This is then followed by the 20-minute, two-part Time Taxi, which is full of driving prog-rock rhythms and riffs, as well as the word “taxi” shouted out a number of times. In the second part there’s an extended, and deliciously chaotic, improvised section with guitar, saxophone and voice sounding as if they are having great fun over the top of heavy riffs, interspersed with broken rhythms.

This is not an album for the jazz purist. But if you like your music fast, furious and a bit raunchy then turn the volume up to 11, sit back and enjoy the fun.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on and various internet stations.

LINK: Preview and purchase the album on Bandcamp

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