Haftor Medbøe: Minor Is The New Major

hafto battik copy deep saturation

Subcontinental records from Bangalore has released a beautiful live album of Norwegian guitarist and composer Haftor Medbøe. Haftor lives and works in Edinburgh, Scotland and the concert was recorded there back in July 2013. Funded by the Scottish Government Haftor was able to assemble a band of musicians that he’d always wanted to work with. From Norway came pianist Espen Eriksen and trumpeter Gunnar Halle, and from Denmark bassist Eva Malling and drummer Benita Haastrup.

Haftor has more details: “On the night of the performance we were joined by Scottish/Polish saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski for one track. He had another gig at almost the same time so immediately after playing one song he had to run half a mile to be on time for his other performance. The band rehearsed all-new material for an hour on the day before the gig and spent that evening bonding over dinner and some beers”.

The album starts with “New Happy” featuring Konrad Wiszniewski on saxophone. He plays the first solo and he receives excellent support from the band so we feel the energy he puts into his playing.  this solo is already my first highlight on the album.

After saying goodbye to Konrad With “Run, Konrad, run”, the band continues as a quintet with “Bruichladdich10″ which refers to the whisky with the same name.  The beautiful melody is played softly by Gunnar Halle on trumpet, piano and guitar have solo parts before we hear an open and very rhythmic outro dominated by the trumpet. The free and open playing culminates in a grand finale.

“Minor is the New Major”, the title song of the album comes next.  A soft song with another great melody presented by trumpet and guitar. Haftor plays the solo on this song with a distorted guitar sound and a free rhythm section accompanying him. Very interesting to listen to the ideas of the band members. Espen Eriksen takes the lead after the guitar solo and the song ends with the melody played again.

“More Viking Than You” starts with a bass solo. The melody is played initially by trumpet (with some effects) and piano only. This song sounds like made for a movie with a strong piano and a trumpet floating over the rhythm section. Breathtaking. The solo goes to Haftor Medbøe. He stays calm and soft and the floating trumpet returns which keeps the visual character of the song.

“Steaks & Muscles” comes next. The intro goes to the piano, the melody is played by the guitar and this song modulates nicely between major and minor chords. Piano and bass play a striding riff which is used by the guitar as base to improvise before the solo becomes free and open again. The trumpet sound is electronically altered which creates some very interesting and unusual effects.

“Broadcast For The World” is a beautiful and very harmonic ballad. The melody is played by trumpet and guitar with great support by Espen Eriksen on piano who also plays a brillant solo. This song is definitely the highlight of the album, it is so easy to follow and it is played with great sensitivity and aesthetics.

The album ends with “These Little Things” which is based on a interesting guitar riff. The band shows again how precise they can play and how perfect they can change their dynamics.

The compositions from Haftor Medbøe have all great and easy to follow melodies and the band received a lot of freedom to take the material and improvise rather freely over it without stretching these improvisational parts into excess length. The music hasn’t collected any dust in this six years between recording and releasing and you feel the fun and energy in this album. Thanks to Subcontinental Records who convinced Haftor Medbøe to release this live recording.

Haftor is not only a great composer and an excellent musician, he is also an internationally published researcher in the field of jazz studies and has presented conference papers throughout Europe. If you want to learn more about his work, his projects and his music please check out his website:

And finally a playlist of this album on Spotify:

Yazz Ahmed: Polyhymnia


A very interesting and ambitious album from British-Bahraini trumpet player and composer Yazz Ahmed has been released last month. ‘Polyhymnia’ is Yazz Ahmed’s third album and it presents six compositions which are all dedicated to to noted women in history – Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, Ruby Bridges, Haifa Al-Mansour, The Suffragettes and Barbara Thompson. Yazz explains: ‘In a male dominated world it is important to tell stories from a woman’s view, to be inclusive, otherwise we’re missing out on other people’s views’.

Yazz is usually on tour with her quartet but for the album she gathered 25 of UK’s finest jazz musicians to play her compositions. Recorded in August and November 2016 with additional recordings, overdubbing and editing between 2017 and 2019 this album has already a long genesis. Nonetheless, the album is available now and it comes with a deluxe Vinyl package designed by Sophie Bass, featuring a 12 page booklet of Sophie’s art and stories from Yazz behind the music.

The album starts with ‘Lahan al-Mansour’, a composition dedicated to Haifaa al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s first female film director. This song uses Arabic scales and rhythms as foundation, material that is also used by the soloists where especially Tori Freestone on soprano sax and Yazz Ahmend on trumpet (with special electronic effects) stand out.

The second song is dedicated to Ruby Bridges. the civil right activist. This song starts with New Orleans style inspired drums and piano, the melody is played by Yazz on flugelhorn followed by an excellent horn arrangement of the melody. Tori Freestone and Yazz Ahmend are responsible for the first two solos, Yazz again alienating her typical longer notes with electronic effects, which comes also as a nice contrast to the other soloists, that follow: Alcyona Mick on piano and Sophie Alloway on drums.

‘One Girl Among Many’ is the next composition which is dedicated to Malala Yousafzai. Yazz used the natural rhythm and the musical quality of Malala’s 2013 speech at the UN Youth Assembly for this song. Parts of her speech alternate with a steady moving melody dominated by the piano. This is the most unusual composition on this album and the clear words from the speech plus the steady moving groove create an impressive statement that leaves no doubt that you can’t stop the wish for female education and self-determination.

’2857′ is dedicated to Rosa Parks, another civil rights activist where the number 2857 refers to the bus number on which she made her protest for which she was arrested and convicted but made her an icon of the civil rights movement. The number combination has been used by Yazz for the melody and the metrics of this song. The song has two parts, the first part is quiet representing the dignity of her action, the second part is a wild free improvisation showing the storm of change that came. This storm starts with a mad piano riff and is one of my highlights on the album.

‘Deeds Not Words’, dedicated to the Suffragettes, comes next. Yazz explains: ‘Most of the material stems from the Suffragettes’ protest song ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’. The song starts with a sophisticated  drum and percussion duet by Corrina Silvester and Sophie Alloway, the melody is played with long notes, a major characteristic of Yazz’s music. The solo of this song is a four-way conversation between trumpet (with Kaoss Pad), baritone sax, guitar and vibraphone, Especially Yazz on trumpet (plus effects) creates a great sound layer in this improvisation. The song ends in an extremely positive mood with a beautifully arranged brass marching melody and a nice guitar and piano fade out.

The last song on the album is dedicated to saxophonist Barbara Thompson. I remember her from the United Jazz & Rock Ensemble where she played with our German Jazz heroes Volker Kriegel, Albert Mangelsdorff and Wolfgang Dauner. Yazz explains: ‘Barbara Thompson is an accidental hero. She felt the call to creativity that must be answered, simply refusing to give up’. The song starts with a polyrhythmic structure where each instrument plays it’s own riff which blends nicely together and creates tension at the same time. Another highlight on the album. Yazz plays a fantastic flugelhorn solo and the song and the album end in a ‘triumphant climax in C major, a celebration of human courage and an ode to Polyhymnia.’

This album comes with a lot of ideas, motifs, layers and changes, it is very inspirational music, played by some extraordinary musicians who put a lot of energy into this project. You can hear these efforts and the mastery and together with the electronically altered sound of Yazz’s trumpet and flugelhorn you have a unique and outstanding album in your hands.

I had the chance to see Yazz Ahmed this month with her quartet in Lausanne at the JazzOnze+ festival and she is also a great performing artist. She gave me a short interview and it was great to talk to her, to feel her inspiration and determination towards the message from this album, that a society should listen to the stories and the voices of all of it’s members.

Yazz Ahmed is currently on a ‘Polyhymnia’-tour in the UK with a 12-piece band to perform the songs from the album.  If you cannot make it this year she will have some more concerts at the beginning of next year and I guess the chances are high that this band and this album will be presented next year on some festivals in continental Europe.

More touring details are found on her website:

And finally a playlist of this album on Spotify: