In the fifties, the jazz saxophonists competed in playing fastest and loudest and called it a Tenor Battle. In Håkon Kornstad’s new ensemble the expression takes on a totally different meaning, when he mixes his newfound tenor voice with his unique tenor saxophone playing. The Guardian concluded: «It could have been a virtuosic circus act, but in Kornstad’s hands was a musical tour de force.»
And the sound? Caruso meets Coltrane? Garbarek meets Björling? On the album Tenor Battle, opera arias by Massenet, Gluck and Bizet, as well as German lieder and Neapolitan songs are mixed seamlessly with Scandinavian Jazz. Håkon Kornstad sings in Italian, French and German, bringing back memories of old world salon music. And then he plays the saxophone, with his distinct warm sound. Sigbjørn Apeland’s harmonium sounds like a blend between strings and wind instruments, and drummer Øyvind Skarbø plays nuanced on arias that were never intended for drums. Harpsichordist Lars Henrik Johansen fits in naturally with his baroque instrument on romantic pieces, while double bassist Per Zanussi also plays the singing saw, without it ever turning circus-like.