It might be something in the water but Scandinavian musicians don’t merely cross musical boundaries, they flat out refuse to recognize their existence. Anyone familiar with Terje Rypdal, Bugge Wesseltoft, Nils Petter Molvaer, Eivind Aarset, and yes, Yngwie Malmsteen is aware that they all comfortably straddle genres from metal to classical, jazz to hip-hop, free improv to folk without batting an eye.
Norwegian guitarist Knut Værnes is solidly in this tradition; over more than a decade and half a dozen solo records he has revealed a mastery of Nordic ambience, whammy-bar fusion, Scofield-style post-bop, and a host of other musical metiers—sometimes all on the same CD. As an outlet for his various visions he created the Curling Legs label which now comprises well over one hundred titles. Many of those recordings are CDs by other guitarists including Bjørn Klakegg, who makes his own instruments and creates pastoral musical landscapes of surprising depth, and Tellef Øgrim, a fretless guitarist offering postmodern jazz-fusion.
I asked Værnes about his influences, label, and recording, 4G, one of the great all-guitar-all-the-time festivals featuring four of Scandinavia’s finest fret board wranglers.