By Tim Niland
Damana or the Dag Magnus Narvesen Octet is a very exciting mid-sized ensemble which assembles some of the very best jazz musicians in Norway, including Kristoffer Alberts on alto saxophone, Jørgen Mathisen on tenor saxophone, André Roligheten on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, Hayden Powell on trumpet, Kristoffer Kompen on trombone, Øyvind Dale on piano, Adrian Myhr on bass and Narvesen on drums. The music begins with “Tapatapa” which jumps right out of the starting gate with a punchy theme for the horns and piano to extrapolate upon. Narvesen’s roiling drums keep the music moving forward and there is a very ripe saxophone solo at its center. The rest of the band builds the intensity in excellent fashion, making for a very exciting opening statement. Raw saxophone introduces “Dalbrecht” in tight conversation with potent drumming. There is a taut and impressive duo of saxophone and drums, clearing the path for the rest of the group to blend in, making for a vibrant and colorful performance where everything is interconnected. “Karnivalissimo” opens with simmering piano, bass and drums and the horns form a bold and dramatic frame. There’s an unexpected downshift and space opens for an excellent saxophone solo, connected to the bass and drums with spirit and empathy. Superb bass playing is the foundation of “Suynomi Lettre” and the rest of the band responds in kind with a lush and powerful full band statement of the theme. The three saxophonists intertwine on “Palettfasett” while the band riffs around them creating a Mingus like kaleidoscope of musical color. The brash theme makes way for subtle brass and rhythm section, and then developing a funky section for all of the musicians to enjoy. “Mannen I Tårnet” ends the album in a very exciting fashion with splashy riffs and torrential drumming. A crashing piano chord sends the music into an unexpeted shift with taut bass and drums improvising in consort. The excitement builds back up quickly to a brash and cohesive finale. The compositions on this album are fine and varied, offering a wide array of settings in which to express the band’s talent and they create music it is a uniformly interesting and moving experience.