Hans Fredrik Jacobsen,
Vind (Wind)
(Grappa, 2003)

Although Hans Fredrik Jacobsen does not have a long discography under his own name, he is a well-known figure on the Nordic folk scene. He plays with Hardanger fiddler Annbjorg Lien's band and with the Nordic early music group Kalenda Maya. He is best known for his mastery of flutes, and this is the core of the album at hand.

Vind ("Wind") is a concept album about wind instruments, in effect. All of the pieces were composed by Jacobsen, though they range from very traditional-sounding melodies to experimental and ambient excursions. In addition to flutes, bagpipes and soprano sax, he plays two-row accordion, acoustic guitar and bass, kantele, Kalahari bow, kalabas, birimbao and pump organ. Not surprisingly, Vind boasts some formidable musical guests: Tone Hulbaekmo of Kalenda Maya on vocals, pump organ and harps; Lien on Hardanger fiddle and nyckelharpa; Knut Reiersrud on electric guitar and dobro; Frode Fjellheim of Transjoik on synthesizers; and Snorre Bjerck on percussion and vocals.

Given the range of material on Vind, it will appeal most to those with adventurous musical tastes, and even they will probably prefer some tracks over others. Purists will be hard-pressed to find anything here that's traditional, but those with a sense of humor may appreciate "Vidde." Hulbaekmo gives an assortment of herding calls while Jacobsen's birch-bark flute struts jauntily along. It is sort of an affectionate tribute to Nordic pastoral music, a tradition featuring flute and horn music as well as livestock calls. "Seil" might be a modern jazz setting of a traditional dance tune; Jacobsen plays a regular metal flute and soprano sax along with various guitars. The unusual rhythms of Nordic dance music jostle with the mellow jazz vibe. "Flyr av Sted" is driven by a traditional-sounding Norwegian melody, but Bjerck's wailing vocal summons up images of the Middle East.

Some tracks like "Hjemover" and "Stille" border on the precious, sounding like music from a children's TV show created by well-meaning adults. However, "Bolge" is pretty without being precious as it pairs metal flute and acoustic guitar in a sunny tune. Then there are pieces like "Suser i Skog," whose ambience blends the wide-open spaces of the tundra with a bone flute that elicits thoughts of a Japanese shakuhachi. "Duvende Tare" has a similar feel, but with more prominent string instruments and melody.

Liner notes give a complete listing of players for each track and Jacobsen's brief essay on wind appears in both Norwegian and English. The type is strangely set, with some words seeming to be in boldface alongside other words that aren't; some words are even half in boldface and half not. It's impossible to tell whether this is a mistake or a quirky design decision.

Vind is an album that will most interest those who are curious about the musician who created it. Jacobsen shows himself to be a musician with many influences and a sense of humor who is capable of getting funky or being ambient. Check out Vind for a different take on wind instruments.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 10 January 2004