9th Nordic Jazz Conference – Abstracts

Individual Papers

Adam Battersby

Course Leader
Music & Sound Technology
School of Creative Technologies, University of Portsmouth

“Static beats and clutter”? New technologies & innovation in Norwegian electronic jazz

Stanley Crouch’s quote above referred to Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” from 1968 but critics such as Crouch and later Wynton Marsalis still frequently question the authenticity of jazz that does not conform to their view of the “real” jazz - jazz with swing; blues feeling; improvisation. American jazz.

This paper will argue that European musicians have not felt as bound the to the strict hegemony of American jazz tradition & that therefore the hybridisation of jazz with electronic genres has created a new form of evolving jazz.

Whilst many European countries have musicians playing in these styles, from a British perspective, it seems that the Nordic countries have been most successful with innovation in this new jazz and in particular Norway, which will be the main focus of this paper.

“Nu-Jazz”; “Nujazz”; “Nu Jazz”? The nomenclature used to define this sub-genre is already uncertain and open to differing (& often derogatory) interpretations. Norwegian keyboard player & producer Bugge Wesseltoft has been called “the godfather of the genre” by Jazzwise magazine, but has told me he dislikes the name & doesn’t consider his music to be “nu jazz” anyway.

This paper will argue that this Norwegian “nu jazz” as a sub-genre began in the early 1990s with Wesseltoft’s “New Conception of Jazz” project and has now evolved into something different. Evolving technology such as live sampling has kept Norwegian artists such as Wesseltoft, Nils-Petter Molvaer, Arve Henriksen and Eivind Aarset at the forefront of this jazz evolution.

Christa Bruckner-Haring

Ph.D. candidate and University Assistant
Institute for Jazz Research, University of Music and Performing Arts of Graz, Austria

Hybridization of Cuban music and jazz

Since its beginnings, jazz has often been combined with traditional Cuban music styles due to the geographical proximity to the south of the U.S.A. and the interaction of musicians. Moreover, the fact that both jazz and Cuban music genres have remarkable abilities to cross their musical borders facilitated a musical hybridization. To explore current forms of such crossings, selected interpretations of the Cuban genres Son, Danzón and Bolero, arranged by the Cuban pianist and composer Gonzalo Rubalcaba are going to be discussed. Rubalcaba, generally considered as one of the leading contemporary jazz pianists, created his own musical style exactly by this kind of musical crossing.

The principal aim of this paper is to examine the musical main characteristics of selected interpretations of Cuban pieces by Rubalcaba by means of thorough musical analyses regarding structure, rhythm, melody and harmony. Based on own transcriptions, the musical analyses enable direct comparisons of the originals and the jazz interpretations, whereas the focus regarding Cuban elements lies on the rhythmic component; concerning jazz elements, the harmonization is mainly relevant for the discussion.

The results of this paper will reveal how Rubalcaba combines Cuban musical elements and jazz elements, thus creating his specific cross-over style.

Benjamin K. Davies

Conservatori del Liceu, Barcelona

Into something rich and strange: the Bobo Stenson Trio’s take on Berg

Among the eclectic mixture of tunes on the Bobo Stenson Trio’s recent Cantando is Liebesode, taken from The Seven Early Songs by Schoenberg disciple Alban Berg.

Stenson tends towards the non-committal when discussing his repertory. In a typically laconic account, he states: ‘It’s not that we look for pieces [for the trio] specifically… It’s the music that has to come across. You like melodies, and you think, “we can do something with that”. … Since we are interested in classical music, we always bring some to the band’.

Notwithstanding the apparently fortuitous approach suggested by Stenson’s comments, the trio’s treatment of Liebesode engages fully with the piece’s melodic, harmonic and formal complexities. Their version re-works Berg’s 40 second vignette into an eight and a half minute meditation, comprising introduction and three progressively more concrete statements of the 24-bar structure. The track spirals in towards a more or less literal (although re-scored and freely phrased) rendition in trio format. There is thus a dual and entwined movement from deconstructed to re-constituted form: musically, whereby the various parameters are gradually re-aligned to approach Berg’s model, and texturally, to conjure a conventional trio discourse from an initially more amorphous state.

Olav Harsløf

Jazz Danmark, DK

Adorno’s dislike of jazz

At the 8th Nordic Jazz Conference in Aalborg 2009, I gave a lecture on "Jazz Science, Jazz History and Jazz Histories". As regards to jazz science, I presented Danish musicologist Poul Nielsen’s critique on Adorno's dislike of jazz. Nielsen wrote about the subject in his book Musik og materialisme (“Music and Materialism”) in 1978. My presentation caused an interesting discussion of some length and I promised to go on with this subject at the 9th Nordic Jazz Conference in Helsinki 2010.

A few month ago, professor Perry Meisel from the New York University published his book The Myth of Popular Culture (2010) where he demonstrates Adorno's lack of dialectics and "contention of mazy error". In my lecture, I will start from here.

Ole Izard Høyer

Doctoral Student
Faculty of Humanities, Discourse and Contemporary Culture Studies, University of Aalborg, Denmark

Defining jazz…

For ultimately music doesn’t have meaning, people do. There is no essential, foundational way to ground musical meaning beyond the flux of social existence. – Robert Walser, Running with the Devil

Certainly a question that has been puzzling scholars and pretty much anyone affiliated with jazz writing is the question of what is jazz and if necessary how do we define it? Considering the amount of jazz literature, not many try to engage this problem. Those that do often move into murky formulations, pushing the reader further away with reflexions revolving entirely around the music in terms of improvisation, composition, tradition etc. when trying to establish the identity of jazz.
I offer an invitation to a new and in my opinion more inhabitable way of perceiving what jazz is, by drawing heavily on social constructionism (Gergen 1999). Thereby turning our attention to the people, not so much the music as a way of definition and if possible make constructionist scholarship and societal practice become one. Deliberating on the common discourses of jazz.

Claire Levy

Professor, DSc
Institute of Art Studies – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Parody rhetoric, intertextuality, and the jazz aesthetics

“The god of parody, if there were one, would have to be Janus, with his two heads facing in two directions at once…Increasingly though, I find myself invoking Hermes, the mediating messenger god, with his winged sandals and paradoxically plural functions…” (Hutcheon 1985, 2000: xvii). How does this statement inform the non-verbal realm of musical parody? How, on the other hand, to think about the ubiquitous replay of that déjà vu feeling, which – thanks to the mastery of God Hermes, generously inhabits the inverted world of parody? Is it still a sign that points at declining of individuality and originality in art – an expression of “simulacra” or “blank parody”, as some postmodern critics tend to qualify the dominant impression for references to previous, familiar texts? Or is it, indeed, a creative approach which might bring critical signs of particular stylistic and value affections of today’s people, tempted not so much by the didactics of one-sided artistic messages, but rather by the metaphorical potential of the playful, roundabout, slippery, and multi-layered hidden, “second meaning”?... Focusing on such questions in reference to recent developments associated with what would be called a Balkan touch in musical improvisation, this paper will discuss parody rhetoric as an essential creative approach in jazz that feeds its chameleon nature and stimulates crossings in terms of style, place and time.

Deborah Mawer

Dr, Reader in Music
Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA), Lancaster University

French music reconfigured in the modal jazz of Bill Evans

Twentieth-century French music played a privileged role in the improvisational thinking of the American modal jazz pianist Bill Evans (1929–80). And these loci offer an ideal opportunity for investigating relations between musical types: from parallels, potential intersections, through to specific eclecticisms, which assimilate, adapt and individualize a given source. Implicit are ‘crossings’ and transformations of genre, culture, national identity and time-frame; at issue are the nature and mutability of music materials. I aim to show the richness and significance of these interactions in two case studies: aspects of Kind of Blue (1959) and ‘Peace Piece’ (1958) in connection with Chopin, Ravel and Messiaen.
Evans’s parentage and education meant he was exposed to highly varied music: ‘sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven and works by Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Ravel, Gershwin, Villa-Lobos, Khachaturian, [and] Milhaud’ (Pettinger, Bill Evans: My Heart Sings). I argue that in French repertory, particularly, Evans discovered an affinity with, and catalyst for, his improvisational priorities: lyricism, polyphonic lines, a rich harmonic palette of sevenths/ninths, subtle textures, ‘voicings’ and exquisite tone – a vehicle for expressivity and imagination. Conversely, it is intriguing that relatively old French music has ’lived on’, re-configured ’chameleon’-like within a new postwar context.

Oriol Oller

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Sweet loudness. Jazz arrives into town

From I World War (1914–1918) Jazz began to arrive to Catalonia, first to Barcelona, through the French —and English— cabaret and music halls. The new jazz dances were welcomed immediately all around the country. Dolça estridència. L’arribada del jazz a Palafrugell (1925–1932) [Sweet Loudness. The arrival of Jazz to Palafrugell (1925–1932)] explains how the new music arrived to this small town in Catalonia (Northwest of Spain), and its influence area. This research project is the final work of a Master’s Degree in Musicology and Musical Education attended in 2009 at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Since 1920, the bands had to change their instruments and incorporate drums —the most representative instrument of the new practice, here baptised as Jazzband. The most important fact, though, took place in the meeting-places of the well-positioned people in Town. Contractors and landlords —and specially their sons, who had experienced the Jazz in their several trips around Europe and listened to Jazz from gramophone records— started to create their own amateur bands. For the already existing dance bands, formed by musicians, the process of adaptation was slower. And that was the key point. In 1925 «Jazz» meant «new music», with «new» instruments; but it also meant «modernity». And it just happened when Salvador Dalí became the leader of the Vanguard movement. In Palafrugell the practice of the new dancing music situated the town in the forefront of modernity.

Heli Reimann

Doctoral student, University of Helsinki

Constructing Estonian jazz tradition: shifting paradigms during Soviet time

“Jazz is a construct” writes Krin Gabbard in the preface to the Cambridge Companion to Jazz.
How can we construct jazz history in Soviet Estonia? How can we construct the tradition of music, which has contradictory and provocative meanings, in a society where political authorities were trying to keep control over cultural activities with all possible means and where all cultural forms were subjected to the power of “red” ideology?

Interestingly, in Soviet times there was an incisive discrepancy between official politics and the attitudes of people. In particular, the ideologization of public spheres was accompanied by the emergence of double mental standards in society – a phenomenon also referred to as double-mindedness or double-facedness which is a socio-psychological mechanism for the adaptation of people living under the unfavourable conditions caused by major historical upheavals. Totalitarian systems create the conditions under which nationalist feelings belong to the neighbourhood- and home-centred private sphere. In Soviet Estonia, he private sphere was commonly contrasted to the public sphere, which was dominated by the doctrine of the flourishing Communist Future. This split between public and private spheres provided the circumstances for an emergence of ambivalent thinking and behaviour of a huge number of  people living by the ideals and norms of two absolutely different cultural configurations at the same time.

By adjusting the term double standards to the field of jazz culture, we can talk about two modes of representation in the jazz culture in Soviet Estonia: one occurring in public and another in private spheres. The public sphere in jazz culture refers to official views on music announced by cultural politics. Jazz was viewed with ambivalence in Soviet culture, and depending on the prevailing political climate, the attitude of the ruling political power towards this music was more or less tolerant. The private sphere of Estonian jazz culture concerns the real jazz life of Estonia. This is the domain where the music itself was played and where enthusiasts listened, where it was enjoyed and cherished by musicians and audiences.

Thus, this paper investigates how the discourse of Estonian jazz culture of the Soviet time was estblished in dialogue between public and private spheres. The data for this study is based on materials published through several forms of media (print media, television, radio, sound recordings) as well as from interviews with Estonian jazz musicians.

John V. Ward

Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Parkside

Discography, preservation, and cultural crossings: The role of the World Wide Web in the underground dissemination of Nordic jazz recordings

Jazz emerged around the same time that recording technology was being developed. Despite demand for recordings by jazz collectors, record companies have always treated jazz as an ephemeral genre, with only the best selling recordings staying in print. In addition, jazz is often presented as an American form of music, ignoring the tremendously important and original contributions coming from European counties, including Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. This marginalization has contributed to the lack of comprehensive and widely available discographies of Nordic Jazz artists. Despite this, Nordic Jazz is alive and well on the World Wide Web. This research investigates the role that the World Wide Web is playing in the global dissemination and preservation of Nordic Jazz recordings, including illegally circulating commercial recordings, non-circulating out-of-print recordings, and non-commercial live bootleg recordings. Data were collected from online file sharing sites and mapped using geographic information systems technology. Discographies discussed include legendary Nordic Jazz artists such as Jan Garbarek and Edward Vesala, as well as artists with strong Nordic connections such as Tomasz Stanko. The results provide insight into the global impact that the World Wide Web is having on the underground dissemination and preservation of Nordic Jazz discographies.

Justin A. Williams

Lancaster University

Jazz crossings in the Twenty-First Century: Hybridity, the Internet and the boundaries of genre

This paper begins to explore musical hybridity in popular music, more specifically, recent intersections between jazz and hip-hop music in Anglo-American commercial recordings. Although hybridity suggests a blurring of boundaries, notions of genre can still pervasively shape the way we think about and create music. This case study engages with two twenty-first century jazz musicians who attempt to merge jazz and hip-hop styles in strikingly different ways: U.S. trumpeter Russell Gunn and U.K. saxophonist Soweto Kinch. The way their music is marketed and categorized with respect to genre in media discourse, and the artists’ responses, provide case studies of the relationship between new media and genre identification. Gunn often addresses his critics in his music, arguing that there should be ‘no separation’ between styles of music. Kinch has been campaigning for two years on his MySpace website for his albums to be placed in the ‘urban’ section of music stores rather than his current place in the ‘jazz’ section. Both their music, and its extra-musical discourses, raise important questions surrounding new conditions of publicity, genre politics and the feasibility of the internet in facilitating (or subverting) post-generic spaces.

Katherine Williams

Ph.D. Candidate
University of Nottingham

‘Is the Duke deserting jazz?’: Composition through improvisation in Ellington's Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue

Since the beginning of Duke Ellington's career as composer and leader of his own jazz orchestra in the 1920s, a common critical theme has been the comparison with European art music composers such as Delius and Debussy. Assertions such as Constant Lambert’s 1934 statement that Duke Ellington set a ‘standard by which we may judge … highbrow composers’ focussed on the complex compositional devices in his output. Rather than restate these off-cited judgements of Ellington’s style, this paper examines the blurring of boundaries between composition and improvisation by analysing the changing nature of ‘improvisation’ in Ellington’s work.

Consideration of the development of an improvised baritone saxophone solo, improvised material in the interlude, and the role of Ellington’s piano in three recordings of his 1937 Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue (from 1937, 1953 and 1956) indicates varying levels of predetermination. Through close study of these recordings and engagement with contemporary criticism and later scholarly sources, in particular, the writings of Bruno Nettl and Nicholas Cook, I evaluate the implications of these solos within Ellington’s repertoire over these decades.


The Finnish jazz-pop hit song revisited: Introducing and discussing results of the research project
A roundtable discussion between 4–7 members
Suklaasydän, tinakuoret research project
Ari Poutiainen

In the second half of the 1950s, an original popular music performance type, frequently identified as a jazz-pop hit song (in Finnish jazziskelmä), appeared in Finland. Within this performance type elements of swing and modern jazz expression were creatively applied in popular music production. Often the results were also commercially successful. Regarding Finnish popular music research, the jazz-pop hit song is a recognized and somewhat frequently discussed phenomenon. In the Finnish popular music history, the second half of the 1950s is often identified as the jazz-pop hit song era.

Within the jazz-pop hit song era (launched by Brita Koivunen’s Suklaasydän recording, in 1956), several new, typically female singers established their careers along the fast developing pop industry. Despite the popularity and importance of the jazz-pop hit song phenomenon, the particular era has not yet been researched and discussed in great detail. In the fall 2009, a special research project called Suklaasydän, tinakuoret, was therefore designed and begun for gaining new information on the subject. The project consists of acknowledged Finnish researchers and is led by Doctors Ari Poutiainen and Risto Kukkonen. The aim of the proposed roundtable discussion is to introduce and summarize relevant parts of the project and its results.

In this project, various research methods have been embraced. Consequently, miscellaneous but valuable new information has been revealed, for example, on the definition and influences of the Finnish jazz-pop hit song, related issues of generation, genre, media perception, music industry, gender, and sexuality. The project has employed a wide selection of national and international material and sources (e.g., recordings, media material, literature, interviews, and films). Considerable amount of fresh knowledge, that is interesting both from the perspective of a present-day music consumer and an academic researcher, has been gained.

Keeping that discourse alive: Re-establishing the school of jazz generations
A roundtable discussion between 4–8 persons
The Association of Finnish Jazz Musicians
Ari Poutiainen

In the fall 2005, the Association of Finnish Jazz Musicians launched a musical happening and concert concept entitled Juuri-Jazz. In the spring 2009, the concept evolved to Hela-Jazz. Within this concept the older and younger generations of professional Finnish jazz musicians are encouraged to cooperate creatively. Often the repertoire draws from the Finnish jazz history. This artistically and commercially successful concept summarizes an important focus of the association: An attempt to activate and maintain a musical discourse between different generations of Finnish jazz musicians.

Earlier such discourse appeared somewhat more often. In mixed ensembles of established professionals and newcomers, artistic experience and knowledge was passed, musical development signified, and communital unity and communication supported in a natural and effortless way. Today jazz education is more frequently gained within formal circumstances (e.g., at various university and conservatory programs), and it appears that the creative musical discourse between jazz generations has in some degree diminished.

In this proposed roundtable discussion, members of the board of the Association of Finnish Jazz Musicians introduce and summarize ideas and results in regard to establishing anew “the school of jazz generations.” Through this stimulated musical discourse and the related concert concept the association has been able to approach new jazz audiences, discuss the present status of jazz better in public, advance crossing of genres, bring generations closer, and secure some media recognition and public funding for jazz. The roundtable is open for representative, international parties that participate in the conference and are willing to share their insights into the matter.

Information on the Association of Finnish Jazz Musicians

The Association of Finnish Jazz Musicians was launched in 1997. The association focuses on advancing the position, acknowledgement, recognition, and appreciation of Finnish jazz musicians. It also strives to improve jazz musicians’ status, to develop and increase their working conditions, and to initiate fresh, creative work opportunities in Finland and abroad. The association designs and produces annual concerts and musical happenings, while it also works actively with various authorities of Finnish cultural administration. Since 2008 the association has rewarded a member of audience who truly appreciates and supports jazz culture with the Jazz Digger of the Year prize. The association has approximately 100 members and it is a part of the Finnish Jazz Federation. The contributions of the Association of Finnish Jazz Musicians were awarded with the Varjo-Yrjö prize of the Finnish Broadcasting Company in 2008.

The board for 2010 is

Reija Lång (M.Sc., vocalist, chair of the association)
Atro Mikkola (M.Mus., bassist, vice chair of the association)
Sanni Orasmaa (M.Mus., vocalist)
Jari Perkiömäki (D.Mus., saxophonist)
Ari Poutiainen (D.Mus., violinist)
Risto Toppola (M.Mus., doctoral student, guitarist)

Rhythm Changes

This panel introduces some of the underlying objectives and research activities of the HERA-funded Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities, a three-year €1 million trans-national research project involving a team of 13 researchers working across 5 European countries.

Paper 1 – Rhythm Changes: jazz as trans-national practice

Dr Tony Whyton

Reader in Music
Project Leader, Rhythm Changes
University of Salford

This paper examines the way in which Rhythm Changes analyses the construction and dissolution of cultural and geographical boundaries in jazz. Rhythm Changes is the first trans-national research project to study the cultural canonicity of jazz in Europe, examining the way in which jazz canons reflect discourses of power over time and how they generate new meanings within different cultural settings. In certain contexts, and somewhat surprisingly, the canonisation of jazz serves to reinscribe traditional distinctions between high and low, and nation albeit, at times, inverting traditional views of jazz by promoting the music as a sacralised autonomous artform. At the same time, studies of jazz cultures, trans-national performance projects and the rise of new media have all served to disband notions of high and low in jazz and as well as challenge the essential categories of nation, creating new outlets for social dissemination and reproduction, from internet communities to hybrid performance projects. Rhythm Changes actively engages with these cultural tensions, examining the way in which jazz cultures obtain their meaning in the function that the music has for its musicians, audiences and industry. The project reassesses the way in which various aspects of the cultural field have been implicated in the articulation, construction and invention of collective, primarily national, identities, and uses jazz as a model to explore the underlying dynamics of European culture today.

Paper 2 – Jazz crossing borders: the British/Norwegian collaboration

Dr Petter Frost Fadnes

University of Stavanger
Principal Investigator, Rhythm Changes

Within the realm of modern jazz, each particular direction of improvisational ‘conduct’ is often a complex cultural clash between individuals, bands, and mini-communities. Indeed, these idiosyncratic directions are often results of transnational meeting points (where national particularities are fused), and tend to have an aura (real or media construct) of authenticity by default.

A poignant example is the plentiful and active collaboration between parts of the Norwegian and the British jazz scenes. Steadily evolving since the eighties, the two scenes are now strongly connected through a myriad of bands and individuals, and it can even be argued that these collaborative efforts are the fuel behind much of the two scenes’ separate successes.

This paper will address some of the national characteristics (and improvisational ‘baggage’) associated with British and Norwegian jazz, as well as scrutinizing the ‘third stream’ of Anglo/Norwegian jazz over the past few decades. I aim to highlight some particularly fruitful collaborations between musicians, as well as examine various national phenomena with a highly transnational impact (e.g. British higher education institutions, Norwegian arts funding, the national media etc).

Paper 3 – Crossing into digital: a new media landscape

Andrew Dubber

Reader in Music Industry Innovation
Birmingham City University

While there are traditions and long-established practices with respect to jazz mediation through recordings and broadcasts via radio and television, the mediation of jazz music via the internet has tended to approximate the approaches of earlier media forms, rather than to establish its own lexis. As a result, websites about jazz – and particularly about jazz performance – tend to use the ‘vocabulary’ of earlier media and incorporate websites and social media platforms into the promotional infrastructure of an earlier, ‘electric media’ configuration of jazz consumption; attempt to capture concerts in a televisual manner; or simply to replicate the retail distribution of recorded music through internet channels.

This paper examines the vernacular of internet mediation with respect to popular music through a jazz framework, and attempts to address the question: “Rather than make a website about jazz music, how can we jazz (and other music) adapt to a natively online media environment?”
Through experimentation and practice-based research projects including the Scarborough Jazz Festival (http://justlikejazz.org) and bassist Dave Holland’s residence at the Birmingham Conservatoire (http://hollandforaweek.com), and explored further through the HERA ‘Rhythm Changes’ European jazz project, we have developed a series of methodologies that attempt to address the medium’s conversational and social nature, that reconfigures jazz mediation with respect to online audiences and the relationship to the temporality of online experience. This paper posits this methodological approach not as a solution to jazz mediation online, but rather as a provocation and exploration in this area, as jazz makes its inevitable crossing into a digitally-reconfigured music media landscape.