Raoul Björkenheim – Electric guitar
Ingebrigt H. Flaten – Electric bass
Frank Rosaly – Drums & perc.
Mars Williams – Saxophones
This group reflects a mélange of influences ranging from Hendrix & James Blood Ulmer to Albert Ayler & Hal Russel, with some weird sounds and rock esthetics thrown in, for good measure. Scorch came about as a result of a meeting between Ingebrigt and Raoul at the Jyvaskyla Summer Jazz Festival in 1998. Hearing each other play, it was immediately obvious to both of them that a collaboration would lead to some highly inspired music. The group was originally conceived as a trio with Ingebrigt's co-conspirator, Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, and that constellation recorded 3 albums for Norwegian boutique label, Rune Grammofon: Scorch Trio (2004), Luggumt (2007) and Brolt(2008). After the departure of Paal in 2009, Frank Rosaly was invited to join the band and they recorded and released a fourth album “Melaza”, through Rune Grammofon. In 2011 Scorch enlisted the talents of legendary Chicago sax-man, Mars Williams . With Mars now in the mix the group has taken a completely new and exciting direction. Scorch did the first European tour as a quartet in the spring of 2011, which resulted in some great live recordings that are released as the double-vinyl “Made in Norway” also through Rune Grammofon.
Scorch Review by Clifford Allen
SCORCH TRIO + MARS WILLIAMS
Made in Norway
There really isn’t much out there like the Scorch Trio. Founded in 2002 by Finnish guitarist Raoul Björkenheim and the Norwegian rhythm section of bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, the unit has waxed six albums in the last decade. While free-fusion groups aren’t exactly a new concept – early jazz-rock was pretty far-out – Scorch Trio clothe their technicality in an utter lack of bullshit, and the focus is on spontaneous growth rather than a hyper-masculine wall of racket (though that’s certainly possible, too). One can’t really call them a Scandinavian ensemble any more – Björkenheim lives in New York, Flåten makes his home in Austin, TX, while Chicago drummer Frank Rosaly came in after Nilssen-Love left in 2010. On the double-vinyl set Made in Norway, the group’s already strong connection to Chicago is solidified by adding reedman Mars Williams to the mix on seven improvisations recorded live in Oslo and Bergen.
I’m not sure whether it’s longevity or the introduction of Rosaly and Williams (or the immediacy of a live setting), but Made in Norway strips away the full-bore nature of some of Scorch Trio’s previous work into hushed, tense telepathy, Björkenheim working through dense rockish scales with rounded detail on “Loos” as electric bass and percussion stir up an elegant mass. Even when the guitarist unravels upper-register peals, they are in concert with the ensemble rather than chopsy power-plays. For as throaty and exuberant an improviser as Williams is, what comes to the fore on Made in Norway is his presence as a deep listener – his soprano and tenor snake their way into the burbling Latinate groove of “Oslo” (a beautiful example) or hoarsely accent microscopic wails and terse, coiled shades as “Genber” begins threading its way into one’s consciousness. A heel-digging stomp has subtly emerged by the time spit and sweat fly on the latter piece, Björkenheim’s coagulants and Williams’ burred tone yoked to fuzz bass and Rosaly’s kaleidoscopic pulse. But even amid this electrified swirl, snatches of “Lonely Woman” render the current visibly pathos-laden. There’s a little bit of feeling one another out on the closing “Bergen,” but the warped anthem that Williams and Bjorkenheim allude to is gorgeous (if perhaps too briefly used). Made in Norway is a rewarding meeting between four world-class improvisers, and hopefully the die for further collaborations has been cast.