Molde Jazz was opening Monday in a scaled-down version, even though it’s celebrating its 60th anniversary. Corona restrictions will limit audiences in Molde, with veteran Karin Krog expecting that she’ll be singing for about as many people at this festival as she did at the first one in 1960.
Krog, now 83 years old herself, has been selected as this year’s artist in residence, which means that she’ll get more attention and perform with four totally different sets during the week-long festival. Former “artists in residence” include international stars like Chick Corea and Pat Metheny, as well as local luminaries Terje Rypdal, Sidsel Endresen and Nils Petter Molvær.
“When I got the offer, I just decided that it’s now or never,” Krog told Dagsavisen.
Krog told Dagsavisen that she remembers the first jazz festival in Molde well. “We took the night train to Åndalsnes, and traveled on along the fjord, with sea views and mountains that took our breath away,” she recalled in an interview.
Things were modest back then. Performers would stay not in hotels but with local residents, and Krog got a room at the mayor’s home. The concert took place in a locale otherwise used for auctioning products from the local fur and hides industry.
“I think this is going to be a very nice festival,” she said of this year’s downsized event, “a bit like the very first one.”
Moldejazz, as the festival is now called, is one of three major jazz events taking place in Norway each summer, along with festivals in Kongsberg and Oslo. Earlier this year it was expected to be cancelled because of the Corona crisis, but when Norway’s government allowed gatherings of up to 200 people, the festival organizers threw themselves back into business. A total of 26 concerts are scheduled during the festival week, and some of them will be live-streamed for a fee.
Apart from a traditionally strong lineup of jazz performers, the jazz festival in Molde has a tradition for featuring musicians better known from other genres. Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Santana and Eric Clapton have all played at Moldejazz. This year, Norway’s popular classic violinist Arve Tellefsen will perform in Molde for the first time. He’s 83 years old, just like Karin Krog. Tellefsen will perform as guest in a special tribute to Ludwig van Beethoven in Molde’s main church, organised by musician, arranger and composer Kjetil Bjerkestrand.
Festival boss Hans-Olav Solli still insists that the festival this year will be similar to the good old days.
“We’ve probably never had a festival that looks more like the one in 1960,” he told Dagsavisen. Given all the recent restrictions on international travel, Norwegian performers lead the line-up. “That’s a good thing,” Solli said. “It enables us to show off all the great stuff happening in Norway.”