286945

That’s Why ‘The Best Of That’s Why’ (Jazzman Records)

286945

 

 

Nominated for its “hallowed” tones, ‘Udoyeleg’ graced the erudite Jazzman label’s most recent Spiritual Jazz Volume 3: Europe compilation.  As an introduction to the song’s reverent Norwegian creators, That’s Why, this pensive piano led lament encapsulates the Christian groups devotion. Now, that same label releases a ‘Best of’, chronicling the Nordic jazz collectives finest moments on wax.

As documented in the accompanying linear notes, That’s Why were born during an epoch of religious unease and panic. The kids just weren’t digging the parochial path of righteousness, their attention grabbed by rock’n’roll and the spirit of Woodstock. Shrugging off the liturgy of a stoic church for “the devils music”, and flirting with eastern mysticism, the youth were turning their back on the established teachings of yore.

Switched-on priest Olaf Hillestad tried to stem the tide by adopting the contemporary sounds of the times, forming the Forum Experimentale organization in the Norwegian capital to attract Christian souls with a swinging jazz bent. This congregational grouping included That’s Why’s founding members, Jan Simonsen and Per Arne Løvold, who enlivened by their experiences at these “jazz masses” went on to record two highly sought-after albums with a cognoscenti of like-minded Oslo players.

Though heavily guided by the ecclesiastical parables and epistles of their Christian roots, the combo also added a rich layer of Norwegian poetry and folklore to the harmonious melting pot: Interpretations of the notable poets, Sidsel Mørck Krogdahl, Alfred Hauge and Aslaug Vaa are included alongside our very own visionary seer, William Blake, whose ‘Children Of The Future Age’ is given a breezy Hair-esque like reworking on this album.  Apart from the Blake opener, all the material is sung and read-out in the group’s native tongue – as are the song titles. Both elegiac and, at times, filled with a certain alacrity, this spread of folksy tampered jazz smoothly skips between moods. Acoustic hippie vibes and meandering reflective flute soak into the shuffling jazz beaten grooves as a duet mix of shrill, choral and angelic paean vocals sing in exultation (‘Kristus Du Gjor Allting Nytt’), or narrate passages from the New Testament (‘Mattheus 25’).

The mysterious Gothic-hinged ‘Noe Annet’ casts the only ominous shadow on this album. Translated as “something else”, this creepy church organ soundtrack to the presence of the “others” begins with haunting trepidation until a roaring saxophone burst and “horns-of-Jericho” triumphant uplift parts the miasma shrouds of mystique.

 

Not so much a “holier-than-thou” sermon, ‘The Best of That’s Why’ is still an experimental gospel that preaches the virtues of Christianity. How the hip crowds responded is anyone’s guess, as most of the musical influences are taken from traditional sources, which in part chime with the modern age yet sounded old hat. Regardless, the music is first rate and the experience is a worthy one. Jazzman’s appraisal of the homegrown Scandinavian scene will delight and tease your hard-earned dosh from out of your deep pockets.

 

Released 1st October 2012

 

[Rating:3.5]

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