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Heilo, Norway

cd cover This sextet has a sound that is rooted in the soil of Norwegian traditional music yet has a jazzy sweep and a dizzying rhythmic propulsion. Their mostly acoustic line-up includes folk stand-bys such as fiddle and pipes, along with clarinet, sax, bass, guitar, and percussion. Though only two of the tracks here are traditional, the originals use folk idioms and forms such as the halling, wedding march, and reel. It's what they do with these forms that makes this band worth a listen. Rhythms get delightfully loopy, solos turn into delicious noise jams, and the harmonies get raucously skewed. Ingar Zach's percussion is robust and colorful without being heavy-handed. Elisabeth Vatn's clarinet and Erik Hegdal's saxophone dance and clash, often at the same time. Steinar Raknes' bass provides the firm cushion off of which all of this wonderful noise bounces.

Vatn, Zach, and guitarist Christian Haug all show a deft inventiveness as composers. Vatn's wedding march "Barnefaren" is as sunny as can be and not a march at all. Haug's "Zen-pols" is gentle and just a little spacey, ending with a sampling of bird songs. Zach's "Springkniven" has a loping triple meter that keeps the listener guessing as to exactly where "one" is. The great thing about this band is that no one steps on anyone else's toes to get to the spotlight. They play with a genial camaraderie and a refreshingly singular sense of purpose. - Peggy Latkovich

Song (c)(p)2001 Heilo, Norway, used by permission

CD available at cdRoots

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