Odd-Arne Jacobsen was born on 29 December 1947. He stands today as a unique personal “voice” in European improvisation music, with his own distinctive tone language. Odd-Arne has worked with most of the leading artists in Norway in theatre and music and has also presented his art internationally. He has had his own television programme in Russia, as well as a solo concert at the Moscow International Jazz Festival and has toured the USA, Mexico, Russia, France, China, Kuwait, Scotland, and Japan. In 1990 he undertook a solo concert of his own compositions in Carnegie Hall, New York.
We got a chance to catch up with Odd-Arne Jacobsen who told us about his musical journey and his new album “While I was crossing the bridge”. Check out the full interview below:
Q: Did you grow up in a musical home?
Odd-Arne: Yes, of course, I grew up in a home in northern Norway in a city called Tromsø. I experienced northern lights and midnight sun which clearly affected my inner eye/ear from my early childhood. My uncle Harald practiced in our apartment with his trio almost every day – When I got home from school, I was just listening and learning – it took a while before I opened the school books. Harald my uncle (my mother’s brother) played the accordion. My mother sang almost full time – popular music and arias of Puccini. The music came very early to my life.
Q: How did you start on guitar? How did you learn guitar?
Odd-Arne: I got my first guitar when I was 15 years old: A Sunburst Høfner (L-5 style model) Before that, my mother taught me some basic chords – on her old nylon string guitar. My uncle (Harald) taught me a lot of chords that he taught me through his accordion – he was a unique music soul. Later, he taught me a lot of standards such as Stardust -Bye Bye Blues -Besame Mucho (which I play at “ While I was Crossing The Bridge) I first had an alto saxophone of plastic – but heard so many chords in my head that I “ felt more home“ when I was playing guitar.
One day after a long exercise, Harald said: “No, you’re really ready for a gig”. It was a wedding that became my first “ GIG“. In a break, a guy came to me saying something about me having a very nice and intense vibrato. What he did not know was that I was sickly nervous at the service. After buying a coke and hot dog after the concert, I took a taxi home – the next morning I had about 150 Nok left of my salary. After that, we got a bassist and percussionist – there were a lot of jobs at restaurants etc. All songs (most standards) were memorized. I learned notes and chords later on.
Q: How did you learn jazz?
Odd-Arne: Actually, I learned Jazz through playing lots of fine standards on Restaurants, Concerts, Radio, and TV etc …
Q: How would you describe yourself as a composer?
Odd-Arne: As a composer, I’m looking for a timeless language. The past favors the present and future. I try to listen to a lot of different music from several epochs – Pianist Bill Evans – Luteist John Dowland (1563-1626) and the Swedish Baryton Saxophonist Lars Gullin, I’ve listened to a lot lately – Their common features are a subtlety of melancholy – I do not listen to much about guitarists.
Q: Tell us more about your upcoming album. (Name, date to release…)
Odd-Arne: “ While I was crossing the bridge“ is a musical bridge that I have not been ready for – until now. Playing alone – with my 11 string Bolin alto guitar (Besame Mucho) my Bolin nylon 6 strings on “ Flow My Tears“ (John Dowland composition in my event) “ 41“ – “ All the Things You Are“ and “ Cherokee“ on my Gibson Byrdland electric guitar. At Cherokee, I also use some electronic effects from my Pod X-3 Live Guitar Effect Processor. In many ways, I’ve come across the bridge and must orient myself in a new landscape that is quite unknown both musically and on a personal level. I have long known about this bridge that had to be crossed. So for a while, I’m looking for new musicians to work with – no matter where in the world.
I think my closest project is to attend is a tribute to the guitarist Larry Coryell in my hometown of Tromsø and write some new music for a slightly bigger ensemble. Leading influences in my music will always be people I meet in my way-that touches me and as for me to think new thoughts about what all this is about: life, music etc. I compose and practice best at my home music room – tours/concerts etc. takes my entire attention. I’ve “ crossed the bridge now “ on many levels – so now focus is on playing “ like myself “ It takes a long time – challenge me and others in undefined mental / musical landscapes where both the unknown and The known can be grown and not afraid of the beauty of perhaps the most volatile of all forms of art – improvisation – that can only be done one time.