Jazz à Junas: Nils Petter Molvær performs Khmer.

For my big birthday (75), I decided to brave a festival.

I hadn’t seen a true concert in over three years. A show at the Jazz a Junas festival seemed ideal: small, outdoors, 40 minutes away from our apartment in Nîmes over mostly non-life-threatening roads.

The kicker was that it would feature Norwegian jazz trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær, performing the record that had changed my life in the 90s: Khmer.


Khmer came out on ECM with the surprising addition of a second CD of remixes. The Norwegians were ahead of the curve in combining the electronic music of club and rave culture with jazz.

Khmer also featured guitarist Eivind Aarset, who had been mentioned to me by singer Aina Kemanis. I was living in SF, and we were on a session for Clark Suprynowicz. She heard me play and said, “I just did a record with this Norwegian guitarist I think you might like.” Aarset’s playing and sound encouraged me down the path I had already begun, using effects and looping to create un-guitarlike textures.

Junas is a typically adorable French village that has held a jazz festival every summer for 30 years in a small quarry. During the festival they rename the streets for various jazz luminaries.

The Junas concert was terrific. Bassist Lars Danielsson opened with a fantastic quartet featuring Magnus Oström, drums and electronics; Grégory Privat, piano; and John Pariccelli on guitar. They played a classically Scandinavian style of jazz, incorporating folk melodies, rock dynamics, and electronics. Danielsson performed a solo version of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” that was technically impressive and emotionally moving.

During the intermission, while NPM’s band was being set up, an accordionist appeared high on the rocks to play a lovely version of “Nature Boy.”

Finally, Molvær, Aarset; Jan Bang on live sampling; DJ Strangefruit (Pål Nyhus) on turntables; bassist Audun Erlien, and drummers Per Lindvall and Rune Arnesen launched into the massive grooves and textural melange that was Khmer. I was in heaven, especially when Eivind launched into an epic solo of harmonized guitar.

The concert was only slightly marred by being apparently under a guitar curse. John Pariccelli’s electric-acoustic cut out and he had to leave the stage to fix it.

On top of that, Lufthansa had lost Eivind’s guitar and, though the promoters had provided him with a solid Stratocaster, his cables had been with the guitar and one of the ones provided by the promoters failed about halfway through the show. As my guitar playing friends will understand, the issue is then determining which one.

At one point, NPM stopped the show to give Eivind time to solve the issue. During the pause, the trumpeter played “Nature Boy,” simultaneously echoing the accordionist’s performance and a recording by one of his influences, Jon Hassell (Fascinoma).

The concert continued with Eivind doing a great job, despite being hampered by some missing sounds. With Jan Bang’s samples filling the gaps, the show came to a roaring and satisfying conclusion.

Liz and I met up with Eivind at his hotel the next day where I was able to commiserate with him about the pitfalls of playing electric guitar and hopefully reassure him that it was a great show nonetheless. NPM joined us for a while and I was thrilled to be able to tell him how much Khmer meant to me.

All in all, a perfect birthday present for yours truly.


10 thoughts on “Jazz à Junas: Nils Petter Molvær performs Khmer.

    • You are welcome. To my knowledge, the only time they played the US was over a decade ago in NYC. Unfortunately they are not well-known enough to be able to afford the enormous costs of visas and travel. I had to go to Montreal, and London to see Eivind play in the past.

  1. great article and really beautiful photos! bummer about the technical issues.
    thank you and happy birthday.

  2. Thanks for sharing. And, in case you don’t hear it enough, thank you for your extraordinary work and generosity with this unique site. I am certain I speak on behalf of all readers when I say what a treasure and inspiration it is to us all.
    Happy birthday.

  3. nice one! congrats on the birthday!

    more rock than jazz, however, you may want to check “tremor” by human hand, with a great guitarist joe hollick

    as ever, thanks for all the great info

    best from

  4. Sounds amazing. That record was such a turning point. What a line up. I hope Eivind got his strat back…

    Good to hear John Pariccelli is still active. Bought an amp from him years ago.

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