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“A quest for depth”: Jan Gunnar Hoff

Blog
“A quest for depth”: Jan Gunnar Hoff

29.04.2019

Written by: Leyla Aksu
Illustration by: Saydan Akşit

Known for his expressive, flowing melodies and versatility, master pianist Jan Gunnar Hoff is one of Norway’s most prominent and esteemed jazz artists today. Wearing a multitude of different hats as a jazz-fusion pianist, synth player, composer, arranger, and educator, the musician forges ahead, leaving a nuanced mark upon each of his modern fusions and improvisations, from his solo work to his various collaborations. Below, we take a quick look at his musical journey and varied projects, before he takes the stage at Akbank Sanat with the Jan Gunnar Hoff Istanbul Trio in May.

-- Jan Gunnar Hoff stands at a point of intersection between his classical music background and the genres of jazz, folk, funk, and rock. With an interest in music since a young age and receiving instruction in classical piano starting at the age of 10, the artist spent most of his teenage years embroiled in progressive rock, listening to bands like Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and FOCUS. Having expressed that though he may not be a perfect musician, his goal has always been to maximize his own potential and get the most out of what is in him, Hoff embarked on his jazz career in the 1970’s after completing his education.

-- Following his concert debut at the Ad Lib Jazz Club in his hometown of Bodø, Hoff spent the earlier part of his career on tour with names like Arild Andersen and Nils Petter Molvaer. Subsequently, he proceeded by releasing his debut album Skylus, comprised of his own solo works, in 1993. Also working as an educator since 1995, the musician currently continues to teach at the universities of Tromsø and Agder, sharing that he considers himself lucky to be able to work with the next generation of Norway’s jazz musicians and that his young students keep him sharp.

-- Out of the many artists he’s worked with over the years, two of Hoff’s most stand-out collaborations came by way of legendary guitarists Pat Metheny and Mike Stern. First coming together with Metheny at the Moldejazz Festival in 2001, he later met up with Mike Stern for a commission by the Nordland Music Festival, which was later released as 2008’s Magma. Continuing to tour together for many years after, this duo’s latest collaboration came in the form of the album entitled Jan Gunnar Hoff feat. Mike Stern, released last year.

-- Receiving the prestigious Edvard Grieg award for his choral work Mediatus, which he prepared for Vossaljazz in 2005, another one of the Hoff’s collaborations that garnered great interest was the rhythmic trio Acuña/Hoff/Mathisen, which came together in 2008 and toured for three consecutive years. Releasing two albums entitled Jungle City and Barxeta during this time, each presenting flurries of jazz, funk, and rock with vibrant interplay, the band’s indelible drummer Alex Acuña said of the trio’s partnership, “I haven’t felt this way since I played with Weather Report.”

-- Additionally, Hoff kick-started the Bodø Jazz Open in 2010 and continues to spearhead the festival today. Also helming the keys for the Grammy-nominated 2012 project Quiet Winter Night, a meeting between jazz and traditional folk music, the musician also took on the project’s art direction and arrangements. Following on its heels, his following release, Fly North, was then nominated for the Spellenmannpris award, known as the Norwegian Grammy’s.

-- Stating that “music for me, as pianist and composer, is a quest for depth and a quest to find a bridge between my emotions and the piano,” Jan Gunnar Hoff celebrated his 60th year in 2018 by releasing three different albums, including Polarity, from his trio with Audun Kleive and Anders Jormin, and Barxeta II, recorded with Per Mathisen and Horacio Hernandez, in addition to his collaboration with Mike Stern. Still continuing his career based out of his hometown where he grew up, the musician also chose to celebrate his 60th birthday at the Ad Lib Jazz Club, on the very stage where he began his career in 1976.

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