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CD Feature/ Karl Seglem: "Urbs"

img  Tobias

This one is really hard for me. I mean, to write this review is really hard for me. Well, you may ask, because I didn’t understand the songs and the musicians’ efforts? NO!!! Because I am at a loss for words? NO again. Because I am in doubt about the quality of the songs I’ve just heard? Again, NO. It’s really hard for me, because I am totally in love with this album. I can’t find the slightest hint of negative criticism. Not that I need that to write a review. But many a times I like music, I’m really enthusiastic about it, but this time, it is more. I really do love this music. And you will not read a iota of negativism from me about this absolutely stunning CD.

But first things first. Karl Seglem: A man, born and raised in Norway, a childhood filled with learning to play the saxophone in a marching band, growing up in a country of rough nature and constant contention with the basics of life. He listened to American jazz, he played it and practiced it with dedication, but yet his heart remained true to the roots of his environment. Karl Seglem is well-known in Norway for what he has matured into: A great musician and a great composer.

With the album ‘Urbs’, the outstanding Ozella label published a polished gem, and I think they knew about that. Even the CD cover is an artistic masterpiece with its special print, which reveals different insights when you hold it in various angles against the light. And as the CD design speaks for itself, so does Karl Seglem: All compositions on this CD, except for ‘Folketone’, which is a traditional Norwegian song, have been done by Karl Seglem, Hakon Hogemo, Gjermund Silset, Olav Torget and Helge Norbakken. They are also playing all the instruments on this CD. And they really do appear as a compact unit, not only as composers but also as sensitive, technically sound and marvelous musicians.

The music comes to us on a light, easygoing note. Pure pleasure and in no way poisoned by artificial, pseudo-intellectual pretensions. It takes off like a glider plane into open, blue and sunlit skies, almost effortlessly, denying the powers of gravity with elegant and beautiful moves under huge piles of white clouds. Even the goat horn, displaying a very honest, ancient and almost naïve quality, fits perfectly into the sense of nature, the rough and real nature of Norway.

In almost every piece, this connection of traditional music and that of modern impulses goes together so very well, that it melts into something rarely been heard before. While the folkloristic background is never being denied, modern jazz impulses join in naturally, as if they had a century-long tradition. And this is the true mark of a masterful display and execution: The implicitness of the performance, the sense, that everything that has been done is just right and gives you, the listener, a feeling of satisfying pleasure. This is true for all compositions and even for the only traditional song ‘Folketone’, which gets such a new complexion, that it seems to be one of those new and magnificent compositions, but quite certainly it is not.

Almost at last, I need to talk about the instrumental performance: That in itself is remarkable, because the musicians do not indulge in technical shenanigans, but give exactly as much prowess as is needed. No more, no less. This virtue sharpens the overall expression and comes straight to the point. It transfers the whole album into an almost perfect musical poem. A quality, that has become rare these days and lifts ‘Urbs’ into a very special orbit, rarely achieved by music in any cultural period.

By Fred M. Wheeler

Homepage: Karl Seglem
Homepage: Ozella Records

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