“We’ve been in London only twice in 10 years, so who knows when we’ll make it back?” Norwegian jazz collective WAKO was originally formed when its members were students together in Trondheim. They will perform their only London date at Jazz Café POSK on Saturday 25 March 2023. Their album “Ut av det nye” (out of the new) has just been nominated for a Spellemannprisen award (Norwegian Grammy) for the best jazz album of 2022. Interview with all four members of the band by Tomasz Furmanek (*)
London Jazz News: Tell us about your album “Ut av det nye” and your feelings about the Spellemannprisen nomination.
Martin Myhre Olsen: We’re delighted about the nomination, especially since “Ut av det nye” is an album that in several ways sums up our incredible journey as close friends working together last 10 years towards a common goal: making deep and inspiring music together.
With “Ut av det nye” we wanted to create an album that’s just good, that little gem of an album you could put on at any time. So, early in the process we decided to make a playlist of music and records that we really love, and then work out a direction from there by discussing what made that music and these records so great. What came out of that was the need to make an intimate acoustic jazz quartet recording that could capture the indefinable spirit of Wako in the purest way, and at the same time being reflective of us getting older and maturing as a band and how we play music together.
You could say that this new album is an homage to our jazz heroes from the 50s and 60s, and you’ll find it filled with beautiful ballads, pompous stories, as well as playful and virtuosic solo outbursts; all played by an exceptionally well-coordinated collective that have honed their craft by over 150 concerts together. It’s Wako’s sixth album and we feel it’s our best work to date.
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LJN: What music will you play at Jazz Café POSK…tunes from the new album?
MMO: Yes… We’re having a really great time exploring the music live at the moment! Each night feels special and new directions we could go with it seem endless. We’ll also play some brand-new material never recorded, and maybe play one or two hits from our back catalogue.
LJN: Is the London concert part of a bigger European tour?
MMO: The concert at Jazz Café POSK is part of our spring release tour that will take the band all around Norway, Sweden, The Faroe Islands, The Netherlands, and England. We had such a great time on tour in the UK back in 2020, so we’re really looking forward to this one!
LJN: How did the band start…. And why these particular musicians?
Simon Olderskog Albertsen: Wako started in 2013 at the NTNU university of music In Trondheim, Norway, when Kjetil asked the other members if we wanted to try and experiment with some complex rhythmical structures together. The complex rhythmical structures didn’t really stay with us for long, but that was the beginning of us playing together. Small gigs and casual opportunities to perform started presenting themselves in Trondheim, and the repertoire and sound of the group developed step by step.
After finishing school together, we decided that we’d like to keep working together, and we recorded our first record in 2015. Since then, we’ve been trying to play as much as we can, running the band collectively and democratically, and making choices based on the four of us as friends and colleagues. That means that the music, and the way we work behind the music is a result of the four of us as individuals – so it really is impossible to imagine the band with a different line up.
LJN: You’re celebrating 10 years as a band… what are your current plans?
Bárður Reinert Poulsen: This is something of a recurring question for us. We’ve released an album every year or two since 2015, and every time we’ve had a different approach – with regards to line-up, the music we play and how we play it. In fact, this constant change in the way we work has resulted in numerous identity crises through the years. The funny thing is that after we’ve been through an existential period, we’ve come to the same conclusion: Wako isn’t about working in one specific idiom within jazz and trying to perfect it, as much as we’re driven by a common work ethic, and love for playing music together, which necessitates further progress, projects, and plans. It sounds kind of austere, but the outcome is that we get to meet up and work together a lot, both as good friends and colleagues, even though we all lead busy lives.
LJN: What is the current Norwegian jazz scene like, and how would you compare it to Europe and the UK?
Kjetil Mulelid: A good thing about the Norwegian jazz scene, is that there is a lot of focus on being yourself and finding your own musical expression – especially while improvising, playing jazz, and composing. There’s not that much focus on copying other people’s work, rather than a need to find one’s own path in music. I think this background has been a good thing for us as a band; we haven’t tried to copy anyone else. It’s been more about making music that the four of us like and allowing all of us to be ourselves while playing live.
We are also very lucky that we have some amazing public grants that allow us to make our music. It gives us a lot of freedom not to think that we must make music that sells, but instead make music that can develop us as a band and challenge us as musicians. This in turn affects the audience and their expectation for what jazz is. I think that might be a challenge for many musicians from abroad. Still, it feels like the jazz scene in the UK and Europe is killing, and to be honest, we are mostly looking for what is happening on the music scene in the UK and beyond to get inspired. It often feels like you are a year ahead of us, he-he 😊
LJN: Why the London jazz audience should come to your concert on 25 March @ Jazz Café POSK?
SOA: People should come hear us because this band is unlike anything they’ve ever heard, and we always give it all on stage. We’ve been in London only twice in 10 years, our records are not in UK record shops, and who knows when we’ll make it back?
(*) Tomasz Furmanek is Artistic Manager at Jazz Café POSK
Kjetil Mulelid- piano
Bárður Reinert Poulsen – double bass
Simon Olderskog Albertsen – drums
– WAKO @ Jazz Café POSK
Saturday 25 March 2023
Bar 7:30 pm / music 8:30 pm
LINKS: Tickets £15 on the door and Eventbrite – BOOKINGS