Thomas Strønen: Time is a Blind Guide

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Thomas Strønen: Time is a Blind Guide

Thomas Strønen photo courtesy of the artist

Saturday, June 23, 8pm
PONCHO Concert Hall, Cornish College of the Arts
710 E Roy St

Presented by Earshot Jazz

Renowned Norwegian drummer and composer Thomas Strønen and his collective Time is a Blind Guide grace the PONCHO stage Saturday, June 23. Celebrating their second album, Lucus, released in January on ECM records, Seattle marks the chamber jazz ensemble’s second stop on their United States tour.

Strønen is deeply ingrained in the internationally acclaimed Scandinavian jazz scene, getting his start early on and showing no signs of slowing down. Born in Bergen and raised in the small village of Åsgårdstrand, he started playing drums at the age of 5, later discovering jazz and improvisation at the age of 12. One wonders if there is something on the shores of Åsgårdstrand that nourishes such emotionally arresting art. The expressionist painter Edvard Munch lived and worked in the town, painting his most famous work, The Scream, there. Strønen’s drumming, too, vibrates with a creative, sometimes dark, intensity that DownBeat’s Bobby Reed calls “hypnotic.”

After studying jazz and composition for six years at the University and Conservatory of Trondheim (NTNU), Strønen has been working tirelessly over the last two decades, with some 65-plus records to his name, either solo or as a contributor, on prestigious labels ECM and Rune Grammofon. One of the earliest and most enduring collaborations he developed was with saxophonist Iain Ballamy after a chance encounter. Together, they comprise the band Food, an experimental avant-garde duo that often features additional members including Arve Henriksen, Mats Eilertsen, Maria Kannegaard, and more.

Formed in 2013 as a response to a commission for Connexions—a series curated by Fiona Talkington in an effort to bring together Norwegian and British musicians—the Time is a Blind Guide collective has shape-shifted over the years into its current quintet iteration. Eilertsen—who is a leading figure on the Oslo scene in his own right as a bassist and composer—joins the collective for their Seattle performance, along with Håkon Aase (violin), Leo Svensson Sander (cello), and Ayumi Tanaka (piano). For those who remember Strønen’s last performance in Seattle as a part of Eilertsen’s trio in 2016, the reuniting of the two musicians, along with the other talented TBG musicians, will offer an experience that is no less mesmerizing and evocative.

Experienced together, the nimble quintet is one part string trio, one part piano trio, and one part percussion ensemble. Strønen describes the project as a “chamber ensemble with a high improvisational focus” that creates “melodic music with a twist.” Indeed, “the ensemble pursues an aesthetic that draws upon many genres, including jazz folk, baroque, new music, avant-garde sounds, film scores and traditional Japanese music,” says Reed in DownBeat. Their latest album title Lucus refers to a letting in of light. Strønen composes in such a way that balances structured restraint with ample space for each collective member to expand and explore, to look deep within before opening up to the light. The result is a sweeping atmospheric soundscape that is lyrical, layered, and expansive.

–Tara Peters

Tickets and information available at earshot.org.