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Hedvig Mollestad Trio - Smells Funny

  by Adrian Janes

published: 26 / 3 / 2019

Hedvig Mollestad Trio - Smells Funny
Label: Rune Grammofon
Format: CD


Norwegian group Hedvig Mollestad Trio skilfully blend jazz and rock in music that reaches the head before the heart

In a decade-long career, ‘Smells Funny’ marks the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s sixth album since 2011. It’s a record which confirms that they are as technically proficient as they are prolific, the style of the band’s name as well as the approach to music itself more characteristic of the jazz world than that of rock. Despite a honed mutual understanding, this proficiency can sometimes lead into the labyrinths of self-indulgence. For example, ‘First Thing To Pop Is The Eye’ (yes, they do have a penchant for amusing titles) at points meanders, although the dexterous drumming of Ivar Loe Bjørnstad and the John McLaughlin-like complexity and intensity of Mollestad’s guitar are quite something to behold. Bassist Ellen Brenken too is no Noel Redding, overshadowed by her band-mates. Notably on ‘Sugar Rush Mountain’ she achieves the feat of laying down a firm foundation that flows, while on ‘Beastie, Beastie’ she provides notes as agile as Mollestad’s frenetic fret-shredding, even as there is a sense of control to the whole piece. Though ‘Bewitched, Dwarfed and Defeathered’ begins with a gritty riff that offers the hardest rock moment on the album, it too moves much closer to jazz territory with Brenken’s speedy bass and spurts of notes from Mollestad’s guitar that again recall the Mahavishnu Orchestra maestro. The most musically satisfying track though is the serenely lyrical ‘Jurasek’, evoking Jeff Beck at his most poignant. Yet that also suggests the problem with this album, for me: though there are moments of real excitement in hearing such accomplished players, too often it’s music to be in awe of rather than in love with. The free jazz freak-out of the surely ironically named ‘Lucidness’, which is anything but lucid, is definitely in the former camp. But it should too be said that one day the automatic references to male musical precursors, as in this review, must expand to include Hedvig Mollestad and Ellen Brenken as guitar goddesses.

Track Listing:-
1 Beastie, Beastie
2 First Thing to Pop Is the Eye
3 Jurásek
4 Sugar Rush Mountain
5 Bewitched, Dwarfed and Defeathered
6 Lucidness

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