Of all the weird and wonderful names that have been conferred upon jazz album
over the years, Ossicles is probably one of the strangest. It’s the title of the
latest CD released by Norwegian jazz saxophonist Karl Seglem, who will perform
at the Red Sea Winter Jazz Festival in Eilat this Friday (January 20).
course, anyone steeped in the study of anatomy or has more than passing
knowledge of Greek will know that the ossicles are the three smallest bones in
the human body. They are contained within the middle ear space and serve to
transmit sounds from the air to the fluid-filled labyrinth, or
Boiled down, that means that if your ossicles aren’t in good
shape you won’t be able to hear too well.
Naturally, it helps a musician
if his audience is able to hear what he does. Seglem is very intent on getting
his musical message across to the public, and says we are losing the ability to
“In our modern times we consume a lot through our eyes, and the
ear is underestimated. We should use the ear more,” says the
“It is very strange for me say that people say they are
going ‘to see’ a concert. That’s why I called the record Ossicles
. I also just
like the word as it is.”
Seglem is one of the most prolific jazz
musicians in Norway, and Ossicles
, which will form the backbone of his gig in
Eilat, is his 27th release to date, in a recording career that began just over
20 years ago.
Almost all of his recordings have been put out on his own
NORCD label, which began life in 1991.
“I had some material I’d recorded
and I took to all different record companies and no one was interested,” Seglem
recalls. “It made me angry so I decided to set up my own label.”
Hebrew saying goes, “the appetite comes with the food” and gradually more and
more Norwegian musicians starting turning to Seglem for help with getting their
music recorded and out there.
“We have put out over 100 albums so far,”
says the saxophonist.
“I don’t make any money from it, but that’s the
point. It gives me the freedom to do whatever I want to with the music. There
are also a lot of very good musicians in Norway and they make very original
Seglem grew up on a high energy musical diet of British rock,
principally Pink Floyd.
“I was really into them and I used to order LPs,
specially from London,” he says. “There is quite a lot of sax on [Pink Floyd
record] The Dark Side the Moon
, and I listened to that a lot. That’s what really
inspired me to play saxophone.”
THE THEN teenaged Seglem also starting
getting into jazz and got into the work of musicians such as saxophonist George
Adams and trumpeter Miles Davis, and some of the main fusion acts of the 1970s
and 1980s such as guitarist Pat Metheny, the Brecker Brothers and Weather
But as he matured Seglem started delving more into his own
national culture, and began incorporating Norwegian folk music in his work, and
added the goat’s horn (shofar) to his more conventional instrument.
like playing the goat’s horn because it’s a challenge, and I like challenges,”
“I think I have become a better sax player since I
started playing the goat’s horn, because it is so minimalistic and you have to
focus on something totally different, compared with the saxophone. That may me
think how to play the horn without the technical things you have with the sax.
This has been very important for me. It adds some colors to my
There are, indeed, many shades to Seglem’s oeuvre, and he draws
on a very wide range of cultural influences, besides those from close to home.
and his other albums embrace sounds and rhythms from Africa, the Middle
East and the Far East, in addition to jazz material.
introduction to his own cultural heritage was also facilitated by his encounter
with fiddler Hakon Hogemo Hardanger, with whom he has worked for over 20
“Hakon knows over 1,500 folk songs and I find it very inspiring to
work with him. Playing with him affects the way I improvise,” he
Seglem has also enjoyed a long musical relationship with drummer
Kare Opheim and that, he says, affords the band a generous comfort zone in which
to work and create together.
Seglem also employs other avenues of
artistic expression and has published several books of poetry over the years. He
says that the two art forms impact on each other.
“They are different
because, when a word is written on a page it is there forever, but when a
concert is over the music has ended. I like that music is abstract.”
saxophonist remains intent on carving his individual path through the byways and
highways of jazz and improvisational music.
“Jazz, for me, is the freedom
to do what you want and what you are best at. It’s about making the music
organic and having the possibility to improvise,” he declares, adding that that
isn’t the case with all jazz musicians these days. “Actually, not a lot of jazz
is improvised because they look at chords and forms, and so on. It can, of
course, be nice to play things in a traditional way, but not for me. I am not a
copycat. I have do things my own way.”The Karl Seglem Quintet will play
at the Red Sea Winter Jazz Festival on Friday January 20 at 8 p.m. For more
information about the festival: www.redseajazzeilat.com.