At first she didn’t like jazz. Now things have changed : this 29 year old Norwegian brillantly condenses a whole part of the history of saxophone. The first great discovery of this new year.
The sound of Hanna Paulsberg is like her handshake, solid and warm. Before this meeting backstage, we ignored the existence of this young Norwegian saxophonist. We are in January 2017, the 22nd, Hanna and her quartet play for the first time in Paris, at la Maison de la Radio, as part of the concerts « Jazz Sur le Vif » organized by France Musique. Immediately, she evokes the history of her instrument : the tenor saxophone. Stan Getz for the languishing and whispered phrases. Sonny Rollins for the rhythm and staccato playing, with sudden crescendos and decrescendos. The sound is round, full, wooded. During the same concert, later, we’ll even think of Dexter Gordon. But Rollins seems to be the most obvious influence. This is suggested by her new album Eastern Smiles : the writing of the tunes is quite complex, funky and the rhythm section often features a Caribbean atmosphere. Yet, all the musicians on the disc (and on stage) are real Norwegian and met 7 years ago at Trondheim university. This band, is the one Hanna put together to take her final exam. Since then, the quartet has released three albums. The first one was reminiscent of Coltrane’s approach, a second one that was transitional, and finally this Eastern Smiles of which we like everything : the melodies, the improvised parts, the textures, the alternation between writing and freedom, as well as the duration. Because in 2017, while we are used to 70 minute records, this one is only 39.
Hanna has grown up in a farm southwest of Oslo. Her father, Hakon Paulsberg was a jazz drummer. She used to hate this music. « It was before i came across a compilation, gathering Stan Getz & Antonio Carlos Jobim », she explains befor her concert. « This day, I wanted to become Stan Getz ». Her first reference. Her everything. By the way, she’s surprised to be talked about Rollins whom she never really listened to. On the other hand, she mentions Fredrik Ljungkvist - her Norwegian hero -, Wayne Shorter, Ben Webster and Lester Young, that she discovered throughout her training. In high school, she’s bored with theories and be bop, « it lacks emotion ». In her town, nobody plays jazz. Even her father eventually gave up on his drumstiscks. No traditional repertoire either. With her eyes fixed on America, she was not interested in the Nordic Tone. Ten years later, here she comes to France Musique. On stage, the speeches between the tunes are laborious. But the music sweeps everyone off their feet.