Sunday, May 19

WAKO – The Traverse Bar, Edinburgh

Valentine’s night with the unpredictability of a  jazz band proved interesting and entertaining at The Traverse bar. Wako, Norwegian Grammy nominees, had several returning fans who saw them in 2020, on their last visit to Edinburgh. 

I was joined by a Finnish gentleman, working in Edinburgh. It seems that while Jazz appeals to the older, more sophisticated crew on our island nation, it is very much a young, innovative musical style in Norway and Finland. The government funds music education, having invested its oil money with intelligence and now earning from past investments rather than oil itself. Norway is no longer investing in fossil fuels. It invests in its people and their creative talents.

Hence, Wako is a band of four young men who make music together. A collaboration of friends who play with other bands of note in Norway yet continue to meet to play dynamic Jazz together. Three of the four members write Wako’s music, while Simon Olderskog Albertsen on drums introduces the music and deftly interacts with the audience.

Simon explained that the band knows each other well, having played together for ten years, with six albums to date. He suggested that making Jazz delectable compared to cooking a perfectly seasoned meal: “It’s eighty percent based on the recipe and twenty percent inspiration on the day.”

On this particular evening, two pieces stood out. My Street by Bàrdur Reinert Polusen, who hails from the Faroe Islands, and a melding of three songs which took us up to the interval. The dissonance resolved to great satisfaction.

I was captivated watching four totally unique and different characters playfully interacting. They each embody the music in their own way. There’s no reaching for uniformity or a “look”. This is simply Kjetil Mulelid on piano, Martin Myhre Olsen on saxophone, Bárdur Reinert Polusen playing double bass and Simon Olderskog Albertsen on drums, tingshaws and other bits and bobs to create a unique soundscape for the saxophone to soar above.

The double bass melded in a throbbing, punctuated underscore. I particularly liked that the piano’s workings were on show, not to mention Kjetil Mulelid’s fantastic fingers. The myriad felted hammers were going hammer and tong as they echoed the philosophy behind Jazz music: the art of spontaneous creativity done in front of an audience, with all the attendant risks, yet based on sound principles and patterns. And a lot of notes!

Their encore number was a melodic tribute to absent love as the band members are away from their partners and families on Valentine’s Day. There was much stamping of feet in appreciation. The Finnish man I met on this singles Valentine evening bought five albums. I have to mirror his enthusiasm and give Wako five stars.

Wako plays the Blue Lamp in Aberdeen on the 15th February, followed by the Jazz Café in Hammersmith, Clun Valley Jazz in Shropshire and Seven Arts in Leeds before heading home.  You can find them at www.wakomusic.com  

Reviewer: Kathleen Mansfield

Reviewed: 14th February 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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