Håkon Kornstad – Out Of The Loop
(Jazzland. Album review by Peter Bacon)
This album is the result of a session in Sofienberg Church in Oslo at the beginning of March 2020, which Håkon Kornstad subsequently mixed and produced in his home studio. Whether the original recordings were intended to form part of a collaborative effort I know not; as with so many other artistic endeavours of last year, it became a solo work as a result of the worldwide pandemic and lockdown. And, like so many of those other artistic endeavours, it has inevitably become a reflection on that state of affairs.
Kornstad says in the short liner note: “My own music will always thrive best in concerts, and I miss playing and singing for you all.” While it is true that he is at his best in live performance – I first heard him engaged in a bravura performance of his jazz saxophone/operatic “tenor battle” at the Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene in Oslo – he can be seen as already well-prepared for solo creation, having worked before with just his saxophone, his voice and electronic looping devices.
It is those raw materials, along with flute, flutonet – a flute with a saxophone mouthpiece – and sansula, that he uses on these eight tracks.
The overall tone, again inevitably, is one of quiet reflection. Looped long tones from a tenor saxophone do lend themselves to the evocation of a trance-like state and to the impression of a world suspended in a kind of enforced stasis, holding its breath and waiting.
But Kornstad is adept at adding rhythm and groove to his loops with tongue slap on reed and a touch of sandpaper grain in the timbre. Bremen and the opener, Waking Arp, show this side of the recording.
Apart from some possible background harmonies – it is hard to distinguish tenor voice from tenor saxophone – he restricts his vocal input to one track, Sibelius, which is a saxophone improvisation over his singing of Jean Sibelius’ Demanten på Marssnön (The Diamond on the March Snow – Op36 No6) and forms the outstanding centrepiece of the album.
Strut has an atmospheric blend of saxophone and flute sounds, Nakai is a perfectly-judged tenor saxophone solo with minimal looped harmonies at the end, and the former librarian in me was delighted to find a track called Dewey Number. If I am slightly disappointed in the album it is only that there are not more examples of the split-tenor personality, epitomised here in Sibelius, that makes Håkon Kornstad such a unique and fascinating musician.