Label: Rune Grammofon.
Prodigiously talented describes thirty year old Norwegian composer, bandleader and pianist Kjetil Mulelid who recently released his debut album Piano on the Rune Grammofon label. It’s the latest chapter in the story of one of the rising stars of Norwegian jazz.
Kjetil Mulelid was born in Hurdal, a small village in Norway on the ‘4th’ of February 1991 and started to learn to play the piano at an early age and initially he was inspired by the music of Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy. However, by the time he was a teenager Kjetil Mulelid was playing electric guitar having heard some of giants of rock including Led Zeppelin and Queen. However, soon, he would change direction musically.
This came about when a teacher at Jessheim High School introduced him to boogie woogie, gospel and jazz. But the time Kjetil Mulelid graduated in 2010 he had embarked upon a lifelong love affair with jazz.
Next stop was a Høgskolen i Staffeldstgate in Oslo where Kjetil Mulelid spent a year studying. After that, he enrolled in a bachelor’s degree in jazz performance at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. It was during this period that Kjetil Mulelid made his recording debut.
He was just twenty-two when he played on Lauv’s album De Som Er Eldre Enn Voksne which was released in 2013. This was a significant moment in his career and the first of number of albums he would play on over the next few years.
In 2014, twenty-three year old Kjetil Mulelid was just twenty-three, graduated from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s jazz program and embarked upon a career as a full-time musician.
Just two years later, in 2015, Kjetil Mulelid’s band Wako released their debut album The Good Story to plaudits and praise.They would returned in 2017 with Modes For All Eternity and followed this up with Urolige sinn in 2018. Both albums showcased a talented band who were part of Norway’s vibrant musical scene.
So were Kjemilie who released their critically acclaimed debut album Hverdagene in 2016. They followed this up in 2017 with Bakkekontakt which also found favour with critics. By then, the Kjetil Mulelid Trio had been founded.
Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House.
They released their debut album Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House to widespread critical acclaim in 2017. Critics compared Kjetil Mulelid’s playing on Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House to legendary pianists Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans. On what was a captivating and melodic album that combined elements of jazz, folk and even gospel Kjetil Mulelid came of age musically. Critics awaited the followup.
What You Thought Was Home.
Two years later, in 2019 the Kjetil Mulelid Trio returned with What You Thought Was Home. It features eight new compositions that captivate and showcase a truly talented and versatile Trio. Led by pianist Kjetil Mulelid and joined by bassist Bjørn Marius Hegge and drummer Andreas Winther this truly talented Trio play effortlessly on what were rhythmically complex compositions that were also very beautiful and melodic. What You Thought Was Home built on the Trio’s debut and found them reaching new heights. The big question was what next for Kjetil Mulelid?
By 2020, Kjetil Mulelid had achieved a lot since graduating in 2014. He had worked as a sideman, was a member of several bands and had founded his own Trio. However, there was still one thing that Kjetil Mulelid had still to do and that was release his debut solo album.
Initially, he wasn’t sure about recording and releasing a solo album. He preferred to work with the various groups he was a member of and the Kjetil Mulelid Trio. However, with the pandemic was a gamechanger and he decided to begin work on his debut solo album.
The twenty-nine year old wrote eleven new compositions for his much-anticipated debut album. This would eventually become Piano. However, it wasn’t going to be easy recording an album during a pandemic
Despite that, on June the ‘19th’ 2020, Kjetil Mulelid entered Athletic Sound, in Halden with recordist Dag Erik Johansen and began work on the album that would eventually become Piano. It was one of the warmest days of the year as he sat down at an antique Bösendorfer grand piano made in 1919. Unlike modern pianos it didn’t sound perfect and had its own unique sound and characteristics. This would flavour the music that was recorded during the first of two sessions that took place with the Kjetil Mulelid Trio taking charge of production.
Recording resumed nearly three months later on the ‘13th’ of September 2020, at Athletic Sound, in Halden, with the same personnel working on the album. When the album finished, Kyrre Laastad mixed it at Ora Studio where and it was then mastered by Karl Klaseie at Ora Mastering.
With Piano completed and sporting an album cover designed by Berlin-based Kim Hiorthøy, Rune Grammofon announced the release of the album in the spring of 2021.
When Piano was released, it was to widespread critical acclaim. The young bandleader, composer and pianist was maturing with every album and his debut solo album Piano, was hailed as a triumphant return.
Piano is a very intimate recording where the music veers between wistful and melancholy to ruminative which encourages the listener to reflect. By contrast, sometimes, the music is joyous, effervescent and blissful while other times it becomes playful and skittish. Meanwhile, the music is always elegant and graceful with beauty everpresent. Throughout Piano some beautiful melodic themes emerge and continually captivate.
Other times, the music becomes tranquil and sense of calm descends as it becomes atmospheric as Kjetil Mulelid changes course. Often the best way to describe the music is cinematic and filmic as if it’s part of the soundtrack to a movie. For much of Piano, Kjetil Mulelid paints pictures with music and takes the listener on a journey. All they need to do is to let loose their imagination as they immerse themselves in the music.
This includes the album opener Beginning which initially is fluid as it flows along revealing its melody before Kjetil Mulelid improvises. Here, he seems to have been influenced by Keith Jarrett. Having set the bar high, the music is continually of the highest quality with Point Of View, Le Petit, Love Story, Sailor’s Song, Blooming and The Sun which closes Piano among the many highlights.
Piano is an enthralling album of contemporary jazz which is instantly accessible. However, the music is sill imaginative, inventive and innovative especially when he decides to improvise. Kjetil Mulelid is a talented composer and his much-anticipated debut album Piano showcases his harmonic and melodic mastery and features a playing style that’s effortless and assured.