Hedvig mollestad weejuns Weejuns

Hedvig Mollestad Weejuns - Weejuns


The incredibly talented Norwegian guitarist Hedvig Mollestad is hardly underground anymore. At least not in Norway. Her latest format with a new trio ventures onto the improv scene with a cornucopia of influences from Prog, Rock, Jazz, Space-Psych, Dark Ambient and so forth. It is quite a stunning 80-minute live performance.

We are a little late to the party here as this was released back on September 1st. But by then all albums Hedvig Mollestad has released, in every musical style eventually appeared on Bandcamp. Therefore, let this also be our little celebration of that, and hope that this creative and adventurous guitarist´s music will reach new corners of the world.

Mollestad is probably most known for her flamboyant Hard Rock-Jazz trio Hedvig Mollestad Trio which releases albums with memorable tracks and gives vibrant live performances. During the Covid lockdown, the trio managed to give some shows and thus lighten up a dark period in some people’s lives. Apart from that trio she has also composed music immersed in Jazz and Impro that requires other ensembles, for example one in collaboration with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra.

She is constantly exploring the sounds that can emanate from her guitar, whether it is thunderous Hard Rock or gentle Improv. On this new trio, Hedvig Mollestad Weejuns, she plays with Ståle Storløkken who lets the sounds flow from the organ to follow, contradict or lay the ground for the guitar, and drummer Ole Mofjell who is handling the drums in ways seldom heard, but always attentive to the other two musicians. Together these three produce sounds that reach back to the Prog and Jazz-Fusion scenes from the 70s, take a leap into spacey Ambient sounds, and go heavy on the organ’s bass pedals and the guitar while the drums emanate a low-end rumbling - and on the last track a sense of Post-Rock. So, to say this is Jazz Fusion is too narrow, that is probably why Jazz Music Archives filed it under Eclectic Fusion as the music is overreaching most genres. Maybe, in the future, the songs will jsut be classified as the Weejuns Trio when one talks about their music? Just like the Belonging Quartet got in the vernacular when they also became their own genre or style created out of the Improv interaction between musical geniuses, who knows?

The Weejuns album consists of six tracks spanning 80 minutes. It was recorded at live performances in three places, one of which was The Munch Museum in Oslo. I saw them at Norway´s National Jazz Scene in Oslo after the album had been released. Although as a listener I could sense that this was clearly built on the album´s tracks, it was also different. These great musicians build around an idea and capture the music in the moment, chasing and challenging each other while building sounds that enchant the audience for an hour and a half. They seize the moments and take the music into unexpected avenues and challenge the audience. It is all exquisitely captured on this album.

Throughout the album, you will hear a master class of Improv music by the trio. Mollestad´s guitar takes on every style, from the clear glissando of the opening track ”Go at your peril” via sound effects emerging from the use of the bow on the guitar on ”I’ll give you twentyone” while on the same track introducing a inventive high pitched solo flying fast forward with a slight bit of fuzz induced. The interplay with Storløkken´s Hammond organ is a joy on this track as it answers the solo with its own fuzzy fast playing on the keys and inducing echoing synths in the complex texture. Alongside these two Improv masters, there is the unpredictable drumming by Moen. On ”Hug that tree” you will discover why he is one of the most talked about young drummers on the European Jazz scene. As the track emanates distorted and dissonant sounds, the drums are leading, giving a sense of them wanting to connect the organ and the guitar, working hard all over the set as the sounds rise from the other instruments.

Going deeper into the 17 minutes long track ”Hug that tree”, there is a point where the music simmers down and the sound from the bass pedal emerges. And once more, the guitar and organ challenge each other. The inventive drumming uses the whole set as the riffing and the organ intensifies. The guitar begins a dissonant, experimental and fuzzy excursion above the organ´s bass pedals and the drums, using a whammy bar to lengthen the sound. Around the 10:20 mark, the instruments fold together into a funky rhythm led by fast riffs and the organ leading on a melody while the drums hammer on the low-end drums and snare drums to drive the music fast forward. The repetitive guitar intensifies everything as the organ solo flies forward with a hint of distortion; you can almost see Storløkken´s fingers flying over the keys. The repetitive guitarlines and drums push it onwards to go faster and faster until they swirl into a new holding pattern with the bass pedal providing the groove.

The Weejuns fuse it all together in an eclectic approach; the musicians themselves kind of evoke their inspiration with Mollestad fusing together the likes of Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Alan Holdsworth, Terje Rypdal, and Noveller to name a few. Storløkken might not throw knives on his Hammond organ, but his style sometimes evokes Keith Emerson, but also more traditional organists such as Steve Winwood. Moen is as unpredictable as Billy Cobham’s reciprocal style and his use of the whole kit I am sure would have resulted in a nod by Buddy Rich.

All this being said, they are a genre and style onto themselves with an inventive modern and urban take on improv music. Listening to the track ”Come Monday” and the first half of ”I’ll give you twentyone” I for one think they have invented a style we could call outer space improv. Maybe they have. Or maybe not. Whatever it is, it is an inventive, impressive Improv album that will please far more people than just the Jazz-Fusion enthusiasts.

And Weejuns? Yeah, it is a shoe, that originated in Norway. But it is also an abbreviation for “Norwegians” when you pronounce it very fast…