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Bill Charlap & Gary Hobbs at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Blue in Oslo: Solveig Slettahjell

There’s a nice tension that occurs at the Oslo Jazz Festival. The heart of the six-day celebration has been and always will be New Orleans-style jazz and bebop. It fills the jam sessions at the Grand Hotel in the evenings and energizes the crowds at Stortorvets Gjæstgiveri, which has more than a whiff of Preservation Hall zaniness. But the breath of life for the festival comes from the homegrown experimental musicians who have gradually crept into the bookings over the last 10 years.

But someone like vocalist Solveig Slettahjell and her Slow Motion Quintet are a perfect middle ground between, say, the dance-club-infused sounds of Bugge Wesseltoft’s New Conception of Jazz and the super-trad Big Chief Jazzband. That’s not to say that Slettahjell and Co. sound anything like Wesseltoft or Big Chief, but the band’s music appeals equally to experimental hounds and songbook fundamentalists by cannily combining standards with forward-thinking arrangements.

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