Karl Seglem,
New North
(Ozella, 2004)

It's hard to define Karl Seglem's New North. It's jazz music, but jazz music uprooted from its American homeland and replanted in the heart of Norway, frozen and cracked and thawed and frozen again, so that all the Mississippi mud and darker blue streaks have filtered out. And it's traditional Norwegian music, and Seglem's own tradition-influenced compositions, but painted in the modern colors of electric guitar and synthesizer.

What's left is something with the freedom and wildness of jazz and the clarity and tone of Norwegian music; recognizably both, but wilder and sweeter than either alone. This is atmospheric music with the real force of nature behind it. "Rame To-Frame Two" calls up the endlessness of a clear winter sky and flickering strength of human cities in a few notes. "Ritual" is a new composition, but in it, Seglem uses his tenor sax to replace a chorus of chanting supplicants. "Manefar-Moon Traces" captures with piano and guitar the quiet potential of night on a hillside or shore, where the moon is still brighter than city lights. Perhaps the most representative song of the album is "Ny Avskjed-New Goodbye," where the argument between Seglem's own tenor sax and percussion works its way deep into the lower belly, only to lift itself into the heart on the notes of the synth.

New North is a fusion album, not of old and new world traditions, but of sound and sensation. In one breath, it can chill to the bone and warm the soul.

by Sarah Meador
7 October 2006

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