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Pixel, the powerhouse indie-jazz ensemble from Norway, makes an indelible first impression with Reminder. Led by bassist, vocalist and composer Ellen Andrea Wang, the band also features drummer Jon Audun Baar, saxist Harald Lassen and trumpeter Jonas Vemøy. Combining indie-rock energy with the improvisational flexibility of jazz, Pixel are earthy and ethereal, wistful and aggressive, sensuous and pummeling.
Pixel features the same classic, piano-less, 'modern jazz' quartet lineup of sax, trumpet, bass and drums as the epochal jazz quartets led by Ornette Coleman and Gerry Mulligan. Like these antecedents, the band takes full advantage of the harmonic freedom given by the lack of a chordal instrument, but Pixel is more interested in painting scenes than in setting up extended solos. With sharply etched compositions, Pixel has attained preternatural cohesion after two years together, moving seamlessly from composed passages to group improvisation marked by conversational interplay. A radical democracy, no one instrument stays in the foreground for long. With every track but one clocking well under five minutes, Pixel makes every note count, never wasting a moment or letting a tune wear out its welcome.
All four Pixels are ubiquitous on the fiercely creative Scandinavian jazz scene, which has embraced the quartet as an exemplar of Norway’s populist cutting edge. Slated for a series of major festivals and showcases across the region and the UK in conjunction with the release of Reminder, Pixel is poised to take the jazz world by storm. Like similarly forward thinking groups such as The Bad Plus and Rob Mazurek's Chicago Underground, this is definitely jazz, but it's jazz that rock audiences can relate to.
Reminder is the debut release by the most exciting band to come out of the insanely active Norwegian jazz scene in recent memory. In a country where jazz talent seems to seep out through the tap water, that's saying a lot!