Tampere Jazz Happening 2014 brings quite a few Norwegian bands and artists to the festival. Why is the jazz scene of our neighbouring country so rich right now? Karl Seglem, Mathias Eick and the musicians of Elephant9 and Farmers Market seek for the answer.

The programme of this year’s Tampere Jazz Happening is looking good from a Norwegian perspective. There are five different Norwegian groups performing over the four days of the festival. In the opening concert, bursting with psychedelic energy, Elephant9 will play with the progressive guitarist Reine Fiske. On Friday The Thing will blow us away with free jazz and on Saturday Karl Seglem Quartet and Mathias Eick Quintet enchant with clear and melodic soundscapes. The Happening closes on Sunday with one of the most popular live bands in Norway, Farmers Market.

The jazz scene in Norway is clearly lively and vivid: in addition to skilled musicians it raises musically diverse and distinct ensembles. The talented musicians and ensembles are brought up especially in different educational institutions of which many have the possibility to graduate from a jazz programme. Ståle Storløkken, Nikolai Eilertsen and Torstein Lofthus from Elephant9 consider education as an essential factor when it comes to the success of Norwegian jazz. This is closely related to the need for financial assistance from the state. Karl Seglem who has had a long and colourful career also stresses the importance of the support for the teaching institutions, jazz scene and art in general.

‒ Until last year we got important support for both producing art and travelling out to present it. It’s exciting to see how this will develop with a "new" and very right-winged government.

When there are many possibilities in education, it also gives space to creativity and experimenting. Finn Guttormsen from Farmers Market thinks it’s important that young people see music as a possible way of making a living. The many educational institutions, festivals and networking make it possible to advance in a musical career. According to him, the amount of creativity has to do with the size of the country.

‒ Norway is a small country. People with different interests and tastes are bound to intermingle. We even have a growing interest in bluegrass these days and acoustic instruments are making their way back to the stages. The jazz scene in Norway is probably lively because most music scenes in general are lively in Norway.

‒ When it comes to inspiration, many Norwegian jazz musicians tend to be a little more free of genres than some other musicians, Mathias Eick agrees.

This claim is also supported by other interviewees. According to them, Norwegians don’t usually copy the American tradition, but instead go their own directions. The influences come from Europe. Also the record company ECM which is concentrated on jazz music is praised in this context.

‒ Because of the great work of ECM in the 70’s and 80’s, we got quite a few international jazz stars from Norway such as Terje Rypdal and Jan Garbarek. These guys have inspired new generations to express themselves in a personal way, the musicians of Elephant9 think.

The collaboration between the jazz circles of small countries also spreads influences. Norwegians work closely especially with Swedish musicians. This is visible at Tampere Jazz Happening, where two out of five Norwegian groups also include Swedish musicians. The interviewees have worked with Finnish and Danish musicians, too. Farmers Market for example has played in the Nattjazz festival with Finnish M.A. Numminen and Pedro Hietanen in 1995. Eick is still a part of Finnish Iro Haarla Quintet.

What also might be common with Norwegian and Finnish musicians is their relationship with nature. Especially Seglem and Eick consider it as an important factor in their music and inspiration. Listening to their albums you can almost see the Nordic landscapes and the momentary light of the short days. So, is the speciality of Norwegian jazz now explained?

‒ It’s hard to tell if there is some unique quality in Norwegian jazz compared to other countries. In the end, the answer lies in the music itself. You just need to listen, Seglem summarises.

Oh, we will.

Elephant9 & Reine Fiske, Thursday 30 October at 21:30, Klubi.

The Thing, Friday 31 October at 20:00, Old Customs House Hall.

Karl Seglem Quartet, Saturday 1 November at 15:45, Old Customs House Hall.

Mathias Eick Quintet, Saturday 1 November at 20:00, Old Customs House Hall.

Farmers Market, Sunday 2 November at 21:00, Klubi.