Marthe Lea Band – Asura
Motvind Records 2021, MOT12LP + MOT12CD
Release date: June 4, 2021

Asura is Marthe Lea Band’s declaration of love for life. Clearly inspired by folk music from far and wide, one can through seven very different songs hear the musicians’ backgrounds and interests propagate in soulful vibrations. This is music for celebration!

Marthe Lea maneuvers through the mysteries of music in an ingenious way. She has showed this in the recent years in such different contexts as Bugge Wessltoft’s New Conception of Jazz, in a trio with Ayumi Tanaka and Thomas Strønen (recently released on ECM) and with musicians such as Axel Dörner and Alasdair Roberts. She balances her sincerely and powerful expression, which contains both folk songs and howling, in a liberating way. Symptomatic of this open approach is that she throughout “Asura” performs with a long list of instruments. Her piano, guitar and flute playing is as natural as what she plays on her maininstrument, the tenor saxophone.

The band consists of, apart from the boss herself, Motvind Records’ usual suspects Andreas Hoem Røysum on clarinet, Hans Kjorstad on fiddle and Egil Kalman on double bass and synth. And last but not least, on drums we can this time enjoy listening to the dynamic rhythm maestro Hans Hulbækmo. Since 2018, the band has played a number of freely improvised concerts that often has lasted for one to two hours. The philosophy has been to let what happens happen. They have actually only had one song on the repertoire, titled “Sneaky Sneaky”. The surprise was therefore great when Lea appeared the day before the recording with six completely new songs, all with rather whimsical twists. Just like Marthe Lea herself. The recording then beacme an attempt to play these songs as Lea had intended them, and at the same time retain a playful and free approach.

The music on Asura can probably best be characterized as an organic mixture of humming melodies, rockinggrooves and spontaneous outbursts. The album begins with “Kedi”, which with its peculiar tonality leads us straight into this universe of Lea. But don’t think that we are dealing here with a somewhat monotonous folk music expression. For “Jysla Jysla” could perhaps be written by Elton John? Furthermore, the title track “Asura” moves from feudal Japan to a midsummer dance in the woods. Through the album, the music movesfrom mood to mood in time with the heart itself, ie something uneven but constantly changing. “Sakina” is clearly Gnawa-inspired while “Elgens hverdag” (“The Weekday of the Moose”) approaches the ancient power of the lullaby. Between them is the song “Bølgebryter” (“Wave Breaker”) which will probably make the jazz-interested listener nod. The album ends with the aforementioned “Sneaky Sneaky” which has been a recurring theme for this band for several years. Common to the tracks is that one can hear them as various festive rituals to celebrate the endless possibilities of music.

Personnel: Marthe Lea – tenor saxophone, flute, piano, guitar, voice, udungu, percussion
Andreas Hoem Røysum – clarinet, bass clarinet, voice, percussion
Hans P. Kjorstad – violin, flute, voice, percussion
Egil Kalman – double bass, modular synthesizer, voice
Hans Hulbækmo – drums, percussion, voice

The music is composed by Marthe Lea
Recorded by Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard at Flerbruket 28 and 29 September 2020
Mixed by Kyrre Laastad in Øra Studio
Mastered by Karl Klaseie in Øra Studio
The cover art is made by the master of this production, Marthe Lea.