Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten is surely one of the most energetic players on the international music scene. Born in Norway in 1971, Flaten studied with bassist Odd Magne Gridseth at the Trondheim Conservatory of Music in the early nineties, then spent ten years honing his craft before his first release as a leader, Quintet (Jazzland, 2004). In addition to solo projects, over the years Flaten has worked with groups such as the Thing, Atomic, Free Fall, and Scorch, as well as in duets with three great international saxophonists: Joe McPhee (American), Evan Parker (English), and Håkon Kornstad (Norwegian).
Now based in Austin, Texas, Flaten recently took the plunge and started his own label, Tektite Records. Since Flaten is an integral part of the creative music world in both Scandinavia and the United States, he is ideally positioned to present today's music. Plans for the label include solo work from other artists, some of Flaten's ensemble work, and a box set of creative music concerts from Texas. Steel is the label's second release, a solo concert by Flaten that was recorded in 2010 at the Round Hall of the National Center of Dance in Bucharest, Romania.
The concert is in four parts and lasts just over twenty minutes, but it's amazing how much ground Flaten covers. Each piece has a distinctive feel, with various sonic flavors — jazz, free, classical, rock, noise, Middle Eastern — floating through the performance. Part one is notable for Flaten's strong, resonant plucking that gives each note its full due. Flaten's notes sing and linger, twist and turn, and his runs are wonderfully shaped. He can be a tremendously lyrical player as well, dancing his fingers over the strings in Spanish-tinged flourishes. In part two, Flaten busts out his bow, showing his strength as an arco player. One gets a sense of his deep concentration and intention as he moves the music from spare sounds to frenzied cries reminiscent of the human voice. Part three has insistent, forceful playing with a bit of a rock feel, and at one point Flaten sounds like he's hitting his bow on the floor — this must have been quite a concert to see as well as hear. The performance comes to an exciting close with part four, where Flaten sounds like he's playing backward and forward and sideways, then winds up by doing a call-and-response with himself.
In jazz clubs where a listening policy is not enforced, bass solos suffer the most; it can be practically impossible to hear bassists when there's a screen of conversation and clinking glasses. So it's a real pleasure to hear a bass on its own, with an audience that is listening quietly and respectfully. It's also a joy to behold someone so intimate with their instrument, so playful and open-minded and intense. Steel is a must for bass lovers, and for anyone who loves creative music played with passion and taste. Flaten's label is off to an excellent start, with more exciting music on the way.
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