Ingebrigt Håker Flaten is one of the most important figures in creative music in Norway. He's a bassist whose original compositions are eclectic fusions of free improvisation, jazz, rock, and electronic music. His tunes can sometimes slightly resemble Charlie Haden, Bjornar Andresen, Marvin Gaye, or George Russell, although Flaten has always remained true to his unique and broad vision as an artist. He established his first group, a quintet of musicians from Oslo and Stockholm, in 2004. He moved to Chicago in 2006 and that's when the Ingebrigt Håker Flaten Chicago Sextet came to life. He kept the instrumentation from the Scandinavian unit and changed some parts that resulted in a brilliant lineup: Frank Rosaly on drums, Dave Rempis on saxophone, Ola Kvernberg on violin, and Flaten on bass. Later on, Jason Adasiewicz joined the play on vibraphone and Jasper Stadhouders added his touches on guitar. The last album "The Year of the Boar" (made from the first group of musicians) established a connection between Flaten's adopted home in the American prairie and his homeland Norway with never-ending humming jazz scene. The result was nothing less than über-creative, progressive jazz, that can easily touch your soul.
Could you give us a little background on the group? How did you jazz cats meet and come together?
I put together the group as a quintet with Scandinavian musicians back in 2004 when I lived in Oslo. I moved to Chicago in 2007 and changed the line-up then with musicians I knew and got to know there.
How did you guys get in contact with jazz or with music in the first place?
I first heard jazz when I was going to a one year boarding school in Norway (called Viken Folkehøyskole) back in 1988. I had no idea on what jazz was then but got a bass teacher that played me Jaco Pastorius and Weather Report, and then I saw Terje Rypdal’s Chasers live (with Audun Kleive and Bjørn Kjellemyr), and that was a turning point. A year later I moved to Trondheim where I decided to start trying to get in as a student at the jazz-department of the Conservatory there, three years later I made it in and that was it ... :)
Ingebrigt, why did you choose the bass? The sound you make creates such amazing energy, gracefulness and muscularity at the same time. How do you achieve that?
I'm from a very musical family and everybody either sings or plays piano and guitar. I never felt interested enough in that, but when they needed a bass player at the gospel choir we were all part of in the early eighties, they asked me and I jumped on it and haven't regretted it yet. When I first picked up the double bass in 1989, there was no way back, it had such an incredible sound and I felt very connected to the instrument immediately.
I would really like to express my admiration for your collaborations with Paal Nilssen-Love ("The Thing" is probably one my favorite pieces ever) and Bugge Wesseltoft. Do you find it hard to stay original after so many great projects and collaborations? Where do you scoop all that creativity from?
Creativity is the main source for the music we're doing and it's also the fuel what gives us the energy to keep on going. I believe it's an endless resource and it's only up to us to be open and receive it. Of course it's important that you stay in good musical relationships to be able to nurture this in the best way possible and I feel I've been incredibly fortunate to play with so many strong and creative musicians. Paal and Bugge are definitely two of those who I value the most, but I feel I still learn new things every day and also meet new people that I play with, which is an important factor in staying creative and always in searching. Basically the discovering never stops. It's an endless and beautiful adventure that fuels you!
The last work that you did with Chicago Sextet, "The Year of the Boar" is amazing. The music is really structured, rhythmic, featuring solos that are free, funky, and wild. What is your favourite track from that album and why?
I'm really happy with that album and I like many of the tracks, but I will always have a special attachment to the song "Prayer", which I wrote for my father that passed away when I was 20 years old. I really wished he would've been around a little longer and that song makes me think of him.
How do you perceive the current music scene in Norway? Is it receptive of improvisational and jazz music? Would you recommend any Norwegian musician(s) as a must-have on our playlists?
Some of the favourite music from Norway right now is a band that drummer Øyvind Skarbø put together for an album on the label Hubro (which is one of the most interesting labels in Norway today and have lots of other interesting stuff from the younger scene today). The band consists of Icelandic guitar player Hilmar Jenson and amazing Brooklyn based multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, the album is called "Bly de Blyant – ABC", and it's definitely worth checking out!!
You'll be performing in Ljubljana soon. What can we expect to hear from IHF Chicago Sextet?
New music and a great band! I'm happy to be back on the road! :)
Flaten always says that in his band all of the musicians are equal and free to follow their own inspirations, which I think is the key element that brings it all together into their wonderful and melancholic musical world. It really takes little musical know-how to feel the sensitivity and vigorousness of the Ingebrigt Håker Flaten Sextet. You can check out their live performance on 2nd of December at Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana.