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John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Nils Petter Molvær

Jazz musicians playing over a dance beat is, of course, not new at all. Jazz musicians incorporating modern electronic music into their sound isn’t really new either. Every couple of years it seems, some poor jazz player (trumpet players being far more likely-thanks Miles) shuffles out of his/her comfort aesthetic and takes a stab at blending jazz and modern dance music. Far more often then not, it sparks and fades-that’s if it sparks at all-and surely it has something to do with players used to shifting or nuanced rhythms sidling up to the unbending, monolithic thud of the dance beat. Lots of players fight it, try to shout it out, cover it up with brazen, outsized playing. Doesn’t work. Can’t be done. The beats are just too big and too stupid.

In concert at the Kennedy Center, the impressively calm and centered Norweigan trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer demonstrated his alternate method. Molvaer and his band give up on making this a jazz music and opt to let the beat have it’s way. If you are going to play dance music, his music suggested, you are going to have to find and exploit the space between the beats.

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