I never know where I am going to discover a fresh modern guitar talent. Oddly, The New York Times has become a source. The online version publishes a weekly Playlist, which spotlights recent releases, with clickable examples. Most of it leans towards execrable pop sameness, but these lists have led me to Rafiq Batia, and now Martin Miguel Tonne.
While many younger archtop-wielding young jazz guitarists seem to have stopped listening to jazz after Wes Montgomery, another breed springs off Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, John Abercrombie, and John Scofield, who themselves were greatly influenced by Jim Hall. Thomas Dahl falls in the later group, one distinguished by flowing legato lines, deep attention to sound, and a willingness to draw from all music and beyond. His latest outing with Skydive Trio contains all those touchstones in a set of soaring melodic instrumental improvisation, but Dahl does everything from backing singers to pushing the envelope of Avant-noise, as this interview and the accompanying videos reveal.
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.