It’s with great pleasure that we once again bring an all-star cast of Norwegian artists to Big Ears. This year’s lineup of imaginative Norwegians at the festival includes bewitching vocalist Susanna, preeminent free jazz trio The Thing, electro-pop provocateur Jenny Hval, kaleidoscopic nu-jazz collective Jaga Jazzist, and vital pianist and composer Jon Balke.
Susanna will return to Big Ears to present the US premiere of Go Dig My Grave, featuring Swiss harpist Giovanna Pessi, accordion player and Big Ears alum Frode Haltli, and Kentucky based multi-instrumentalist Cheyenne Mize. Mixing Shakespeare and Joy Division, Purcell and pop, this program dips into darkness to arrive in light, expressed by the diaphanous union of Pessi’s harp and Susanna’s exquisite vocals. Known to cover the likes of songwriters Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake, Susanna will also perform a solo set of original compositions and covers at Big Ears.
One of the most ecstatic and electrifying bands in free jazz history, Scandinavian power trio The Thing is saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. With unconstrained improvisations and a heavy dose of funk rock, The Thing will surely bring the heat to Big Ears. Gustafsson will also team up with Kieran Hebden (Four Tet), and Nilssen-Love will collaborate with Arto Lindsay — two rare duo performances not to be missed.
Returning to Big Ears is the powerfully evocative singer, songwriter, artist, and novelist Jenny Hval, whose polyphonic artistry was in full display at the 2014 festival. Hval’s oeuvre demands listeners to ponder uncomfortable questions and wrestle with hard realizations — greed and manipulation, pornography and gluttony, among others. Expect the unexpected with her live performances, which showcase Hval’s thoughtful provocation through collaboration and stunning visuals.
Phenoms of the jazz world Jaga Jazzist will treat Big Ears audiences to two unique performances during the festival weekend. One of the shows will feature a special program with the band augmented by prolific multi-instrumentalist Stale Storlokken and pianist/composer Jon Balke of Magnetic North Orchestra. The second show will be an instrumentally ambidextrous set of Jaga Jazzist’s adventurous works in their classic configuration, fusing together classical, jazz, and electronics, representing the best of Norwegian innovation.
In addition to his performance with Jaga Jazzist, pianist and composer Jon Balke will perform his own works at Big Ears. A remarkable exercise in musical possibility, Balke’s strikingly original sound is a mélange of jazz, world, classical, folk, and beyond. His latest release with international collective Siwan, Hahnou Houm, is a composition based around traditional Arabo-Andalusian poetry, aimed at promoting religious coexistence in the modern world.