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Existing somewhere between the post-psychedelic period of Soft Machine and the electric funk of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Black And White, the 1976 album from Norway’s Vanessa is without question a formidable beast of a jazz-rock record. A potent brew of sonic experimentation and pulsating off-kilter groove. Taking their name from the genus of Nymphalidae butterfly, Vanessa was founded in 1971 by saxophonist Svend Undseth and pianist Frode Holm, the founder of the Oslo record store turned imprint, Compendium Records. Unsurprisingly analogous to the music championed across the Compendium catalogue Black And White is clearly influenced by the UK Canterbury scene, highlighted by Compendium’s focus on the recordings of Soft Machine alumni Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean. Vanessa’s spirit also lies synonymous with the collective pedigree on the label’s roster including British progressive jazz stalwart Keith Tippett and Mirage (a UK group consisting of ex-members of Centipede and The Mike Westbrook Orchestra), together with the avant-rock collective Henry Cow and the experimental synthesiser-jazz of US ex-pat Joe Gallivan (together with Charles Austin).

Often dubbed the ‘Compendium house band’ owing to Holm’s association with the label, the Vanessa sound is inherently familiar yet undeniably original. Each of the album’s four long compositions are a meld of complex angular jazz laced with swirling electronic textures – furious rhythms that surge in intoxicating intensity before easing into fluid passages of soulful post-bop. The dichotomy of these styles plants the group firmly into radical new jazz territory alongside their Canterbury contemporaries. Despite their brief existence, the band, alongside the label left an indelible mark on Norwegian jazz-rock and the headier side of European progressive music at large.

  • Reissue of 1976 Norwegian Jazz-Rock album.
  • Post-psychedelic period Soft Machine meets the electric funk of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters.
  • Transferred and restored from the original master tape.


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