The dreaming notes of Air, from Ellen Andrea Wang’s first album Diving, teletransported the audience gathered at Punane Maja on a gray Tuesday evening, onto a boat sailing through the fjords, a boat whose rudder was steered by this talented Norwegian bass player and singer. The crew was completed by pianist Erlend Slettevoll and drummer Erland Dahlen.
Ellen, who likes to consider herself a bassist before a singer, is touring Europe and presenting her second and latest album, Blank Out, but for her first visit in Tallinn she played a set featuring tunes from both albums.
Soon, the soft atmosphere of the opening leaves room for a livelier song, Change of Heart, showing a quality of this well-balanced trio: the ability to change the pace of their music very smoothly and effortlessly. Ellen is the ’helmsman’ who keeps the ensemble on the right route, and functions as a counterbalance between the more timid pianist, Erlend, and the explosive drummer Erland. The first usually concots subtle backgrounds for Ellen’s voice rather than lingering in prolonged solos, or is joined by her bass to ’contain’, so to speak, Erland’s drumming, which deserves a particular mention.
While Ellen and Erlend’s instruments seemed quite normal – a double-bass for her, a Fender Rhodes and a piano for him – Erland’s drumkit was quite peculiar. What could be defined as a typical drum set, is actually augmented with other percussion gadgets such as cowbells, bells, rattles and other objects either hanging or leaning on cymbals, which were hit with a vast arsenal of sticks, brushes and mallets.
Perfect danger, which Ellen described as piece about taking risks, was a good example of how all this equipment was used. The long drum intro led to the actual tune, which you can imagine hearing while whizzing beside the ocean in a car on the Atlantic Road in Norway.
Eventually the audience virtually reached Norway, since the following tune, Fjord Ferry, was dedicated to the place where Ellen grew up. No lyrics, just her gentle vocalizing to create a picture of the classic Norwegian landscape with music.
Electric and Follow Me marked another slight change of style from such relaxing melodies to more agitated fast rhythms, as the concert was moving to its conclusion.
When the end arrived, the audience applauded for the experience of a kind of music which, as with other artists seen here at the JazzKaar Festival, is difficult to categorize or label. Jazz? Pop? Folk? All of them, and possibly more.
Ellen Andrea Wang
Punane Maja, Tuesday, April 24, 7:45pm
Ellen Andrea Wang: double bass, vocals
Erlend Slettevoll: electric piano, piano
Erland Dahlen: drums, percussion
Check out photos from the concert here