IT WAS a gentle start for some to Glasgow’s annual jazz fiesta this year, as Norwegian-Scottish guitarist Haftor Medbøe and Swedish pianist Jacob Karlzon revived the dreamy fruits of a long-gestating collaboration at this opening night concert.
Haftor Medbøe and Jacob Karlzon, City Halls Recital Room ****
First hatched not in Scandinavia but at the Islay Jazz Festival 15 years ago – “back when Jacob still drank,” joked Medbøe – the project was only premiered live last year in Edinburgh, and has more recently born a self-titled debut album.
Drawing on their shared roots and influences, echoing the Scandi-jazz tradition of pianists such as Jan Johansson, Esbjorn Svensson and Tord Gustavsen, yet with a melodic and icily reflective contemporary sensibility that touches at a distance on the ambient atmospheres of Ólafur Arnalds and Jóhann Jóhannsson, their expansive and playfully detailed soundscapes filled the corners of the bright, airy City Halls Recital Room.
While principally a showcase of tidy composition, there was a conversational feel to the performance too, with the pair breaking out into smiles as they tossed little motifs back and forth. Medbøe’s inventive playing – both leaving space for Karlzon with effects – embellished volume pedal swells and filling it with fluttering fretboard runs – went next level when he pulled out a bow and started conjuring authentically cello-like drones during the stormy Hope, a tune in a Far Eastern mode that could probably have veered off into Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir if it had felt like it.
A pair of songs with vocalist Jessie Bates brought a welcome focal point to an evening of otherwise long-form instrumentals – one a disarmingly sweet original titled Happiness, the other a spirited cover of Swedish singer-songwriter Stina Nordenstam’s Everyone Else in the World.