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Jazzfest Berlin

The German premiere of one of Norway’s most exciting new groups, the Marthe Lea Band, which brilliantly weaves influences from African and Scandinavian folk music into a heady, rump-shaking blast. Lea's indelible compositions burst with energy and a love-of-life vitality and reject stylistic purity with insouciance and improvisations at the highest level.

German Premiere

Marthe Lea Band

(NO, SE)

As a nuanced member of the trio assembled by drummer Thomas Strønen for his 2021 album “Bayou”, Norwegian reedist Marthe Lea provided no indication of the stylistically broad interests she has explored elsewhere, including recent involvement in Paal Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit and an improvising trio with Berlin trumpet pioneer Axel Dörner and Danish singer Birgitte Lyregaard. But no project expresses her full range like this remarkable quintet which dissolves any barriers between high-energy free jazz and a transcultural sense of tradition. Lea’s indelible compositions burst with energy and a love-of-life vitality, with a strong array of regional African styles, whether Ethiopian soul or Gnawan grooves from Morocco, utterly transformed by her nimble, multi-layered arrangements and all-in support she gets from her superb quintet, nearly all of whom are multi-instrumentalists who can alter the complexion of the music in a heartbeat.

Lea herself plays piano, guitar, and flute in addition to tenor saxophone, while Hans P. Kjorstad complements violin playing that splits the difference between free jazz and Norwegian folk, with percussion and flute, and Swedish bassist Egil Kalman occasionally adds modular synth lines. Only clarinetist Andreas Røysum and drummer Hans Hulbækmo – who played Jazzfest Berlin last year as a member of Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra – stick to a single sound, more or less. Lea put the world on notice with her 2021 album “Asura”, blithely ignoring any concerns for stylistic purity in songs that revel in the joyful act of making music with her friends, a quality that is palpable when the group performs. The musicians dance around the stage even while improvising at the highest level. Her brand new album features an infectious tune called “Ayumi”, referring to the name of Norwegian pianist and occasional collaborator Ayumi Tanaka, symbolizing her deep connection to her musical pals.


  • Marthe Lea – tenor saxophone, flute, piano, guitar, vocals, adungu, percussion
  • Andreas Røysum – clarinet, bass clarinet, vocals, percussion
  • Hans P. Kjorstad – violin, flute, vocals, percussion
  • Egil Kalman – double bass, modular synthesizer, vocals
  • Hans Hulbækmo – drums, percussion, vocals

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