We have something of a burgeoning free jazz scene here, with gigs taking place
at venues such as Levontin 7 in Tel Aviv and Uganda in Jerusalem with fairly
high frequency. We also get artists from abroad who pop by periodically to share
their artistic insights with us, and join forces with some of their Israeli
Norwegian drummer Stale Liavik Solberg has been here
several times over the past couple of years, sharing the stage with local
improvisational stalwarts the likes of pianist Daniel Sarid, clarinetist Harold
Rubin and guitarist Ido Bukelman.
Next week, Solberg will team up with
compatriot vocalist Stine Janvin Motland, as the Motsol duo, to perform concerts
at Awsat High School in Haifa, and at Uganda and Levontin 7, with Sarid and
Rubin joining the Scandinavians in the second set at the latter
32-year-old Solberg and Motland have been sharing their artistic
journeys for some time now, both as a duo and as part of a quartet alongside
cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and clarinetist Frode Gjerstad.
“We have been
working together for seven years now, since we started studying jazz in
Stavanger,” says Solberg. That was for an undergraduate degree in jazz, and the
four continued on to a master’s degree at the music conservatory in Oslo, which
they took as a group.
Over the years Solberg has worked with Motland, and
with the quartet and other larger groups and says different personnel volumes
offer different advantages.
“When I work with Stine it’s fun because we
can feed off each other and alternate things. Sometimes she’ll lead and do all
sorts of crazy things while I keep the melody going, and then we can do it the
other way round, or we can play we neither of us taking the lead.”
again, when there are only two musicians on stage it leaves each player with a
greater degree of responsibility.
“That’s true,” observes Solberg, “but
it’s also fun to playing in bigger ensembles. Then again, sometimes in bigger
bands you end with a specific role and you have less freedom. So there are
advantages and disadvantages.”
Growing up, Solberg was initially exposed
to a very different musical mindset than his current avenue of creative
“There was all that late Eighties and early Nineties stuff on
the radio,” he recalls. “I remember I got [Norwegian pop group] A-ha and
[Canadian rock musician] Bryan Adams cassettes for Christmas one
Things soon changed.
“When I was 12 or 13 I got a CD player
and I borrowed quite a few CDs from one of my uncles and started buying CDs and
records. My uncle had some 1970s 1980s funk and fusion, everything from Herbie
Hancock’s electric Head Hunters album to [American R&B-based band] Tower of
SOLBERG STARTED developing an interest in drummers and started
drumming with the school band. He began checking out all the jazz-fusion
drummers of the time, including Billy Cobham – Cobham’s 1973 album Spectrum was
teenage Solberg’s first CD purchase – and Tony Williams.
Davis, and his drummers of the 1950s Jimmy Cobb and Philly Joe Jones, also
provided Solberg with inspiration.
“I got interested in trying to work
out how all the music was organized and fit together. I listened to a lot of
different music and I’d play along with different records.”
he got his own drum set and began practicing long and hard, which couldn’t have
been much fun for his parents.
“Actually, my mother told me she had been
worried about the noise but said it could have been much worse, because
listening to a horn player playing out of tune would have been
Despite immersing himself in listening to and playing music
Solberg was still not sold on the idea of becoming a professional a musician
when he left high school. He spent some time at a folkmusic based school and
tried his hand at various endeavors until, eventually, at the relatively ripe
old age of 25, he started a BA in jazz.
“I think that was an advantage,
that I came to the studies a bit older and more mature,” he notes.
allowed me to be more critical of what I learned and listened to, and not just
He gradually began playing on the small, but growing,
improvisational music scene in Norway and says his generation of Norwegians has
taken free jazz there to a different level.
“I think people got a bit fed
up with the [German jazz label] ECM sound sort of thing. They started looking
for something different.”
Today, Solberg says he is drawn to the music of
free improvisational players such as saxophonists Evan Parker and Peter
Brotzmann, pianist Cecil Taylor and guitarist Derek Bailey.
“It is their
texture and the fact that they are able to put some kind of forward motion in
their playing, it’s amazing. I get a great feeling from their music, but you
can’t have this forward motion the whole time, but you can push it
sometimes. That is something I want to be able to do.”
Solberg play is anything but boring.
There is always something going on
as he alternates between different drums and cymbals, drumsticks and brushes,
and bells and other means of varying the texture and rhythm of his
“It’s about bringing new things up the whole time,” he
“I am aware that I may tend to slip into a pattern, so I watch
out for that and try to keep things interesting.”Motsol will play at
Uganda in Jerusalem on November 7 at 9 p.m., Awsat High School in Haifa on
November 9 at 9 p.m., and at Levontin 7 on November 10 at 8:30 p.m.