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Songs Of The Fjords: Jazz From Norway

Buerbrae Glacier, Odde, Hardanger Fjord, Norway.
Library of Congress via flickr.com
Buerbrae Glacier, Odde, Hardanger Fjord, Norway.

It didn't take long for jazz to migrate to Europe, but uniquely European improvisational music is a much later development. In the 1960s, European musicians began to reinvent the occasionally strident sounds of American avant-garde jazz to suit their own ideas. The eventual result was a blooming of scenes and styles sharing only common ancestry with their U.S. counterparts.

Given that we're all stuck in the dead of winter, Take Five checks in with one of the coldest places on the map: Norway. A country with fewer than five million inhabitants, Norway has produced some of the freshest improvising voices making music today. Thank the government for investing money in the arts, sure, but the country's musicians have clearly worked hard to create an individual and regional aesthetic.

Given its limited size, this list is bound to leave out some of the greatest Norwegian artists — here's looking at you, Nils Petter Molvaer and Bugge Wesseltoft — so readers are invited to stick up for their own favorites in the comments section below. For now, Take Five presents a sampler of the finest records to define the modern Norwegian jazz scene in all its snowbound glory.

For more entries in the Take Five series, click here. And don't forget to subscribe to the Jazz Notes newsletter.

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