Norwegian Jazz Star Releases New Album Ellen Andrea Wang is one of the most recognizable jazz artists in Norway. Wang studied classical violin for ten years before switching to the bass at sixteen and studying jazz at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Music reviewer Michelle Mercer says her sophomore album Blank Out reflects 1980s art pop as much as jazz.
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Norwegian Jazz Star Releases New Album

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Norwegian Jazz Star Releases New Album

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Music Reviews

Norwegian Jazz Star Releases New Album

Norwegian Jazz Star Releases New Album

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Ellen Andrea Wang is one of the most recognizable jazz artists in Norway. Wang studied classical violin for ten years before switching to the bass at sixteen and studying jazz at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Music reviewer Michelle Mercer says her sophomore album Blank Out reflects 1980s art pop as much as jazz.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Now let's listen to new songs from a leading figure in Norway's crossover jazz-pop scene. Ellen Andrea Wang, a 31-year-old bassist and vocalist, recently released her second album. It's called "Blank Out." Michelle Mercer has our review.

MICHELLE MERCER, BYLINE: For Ellen Andrea Wang, jazz is not a tradition or style so much as a freedom principle, the permission to approach music however she likes. And so her new album reflects '80s art pop as much as jazz.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ELECTRIC")

ELLEN ANDREA WANG: (Singing) I've got electric hair. I've got an electric boyfriend. I had an electric family around when the fun began.

MERCER: Wang is partly a product of Norway's new jazz scene, where songs and textures take priority over any displays of individual musical prowess. On this song, "Electric," Wang drives the group with her expressive, playful voice and layers in her acoustic bass like a streak of solid wood in the song's furnished chrome.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELLEN ANDREA WANG SONG, "ELECTRIC")

MERCER: Wang studied classical violin for 10 years before switching to the bass at 16 and studying jazz at the Norwegian Academy of Music. In 2015, she won the Kongsberg Jazz Award, a 300,000 kroner prize - that's nearly $50,000 - given to one of the year's most prominent jazz artists. Her deep musical capacity gives her songwriting an edge. Wang can compose words and music into a meaningful, interconnected relationship.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAD BLOOD")

WANG: (Singing) Why can't we just get along? Where did we go wrong? Were you ever on my team, a member of my team?

MERCER: On the chorus of "Bad Blood," she uses her bass to create harmonic tension, enriching the lyric's message. She wants us to feel the unease of "Bad Blood" in her music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAD BLOOD")

WANG: (Singing) Bad blood behind us. Put the bad blood behind us.

MERCER: Wang's side men are also proficient, open-minded jazz players, and they support her pop agenda here with fitting minimalism. Still, when the keyboardist, Andreas Ulvo, carefully emerges for a solo on "Heaven," I wonder what else he's been holding back.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELLEN ANDREA WANG SONG, "HEAVEN")

MERCER: Like many innovative artists, Ellen Andrea Wang seems to hear something that she's not quite doing yet, and that gives this album an intriguing sense of becoming. There's another level of jazz-pop synthesis, a further degree of realization for Wang's music. And given her skill and ingenuity, I'm happy to follow her to the next horizon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEAVEN")

WANG: (Singing) Heaven, abstraction or a place among the clouds.

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