That man sounds like the devil

by HRM on October 26, 2011

Frank Znort Quartet at Blå in Oslo, 09.10.2011

“I tried everything, from parachuting to bungee jumping, but nothing gives me such a kick, such a liberation like standing here, on the stage, making music.“ Gard walks away from me. He is nicely dressed in a black suit, a tie, leather shoes.

Gard is one of the members of the Frank Znort Quartet, a group of musicians playing every Sunday in Oslo’s notorious nightclub called Blå. It is a peculiar, slightly mysterious place and probably one of the most alternative locations of Oslo’s nightlife scene. Lying right at the border of the river Aker Selva, hidden between trees and surrounded by a collection of bizarre stone sculptures, Blå is a centre for music and literature in Norway’s capital.

Franz Znort QuartetIt is here that the Frank Znort Quartet plays their mixture of funk, jazz, soul and reggae every week. And just as their music style is hard to pin down, so are the musicians themselves. Whether formally dressed or in a Hawaiian shirt, whether in outdoor sportswear or a flower dress, whether Norwegian or any other nationality, it is an incredibly colourful, a varied and unconventional combination of artists. There is Seff, the piano player, hidden behind his dark sunglasses while playing; there is Sidney with his haunting soul voice and also Willy, always somehow ducked but moving smoothly to the sound of his tambourine.

“We started off with just four of us, doing small jam sessions from time to time. Now we are about 19 or 20 people, I don’t even count anymore.“ Arne is one of the founders of the band, prefers to sit slightly sideways on a tiny chair while singing with closed eyes and a hoarse voice “which makes him sound like the devil“, as one of the spectators remarks.

“We don’t care about professional music education here. I just went backstage with my guitar once, I auditioned a little bit and here I am,“Gard laughs.

The only woman in the Quartet is Anette, her hair cut short in a blond bob, wearing a colourful, snug dress and singing of love, money and men. Bedroom eyes, delicate gestures, gracious moves. I hear a voice from someone in the audience: “I love that song and I love how that woman sings it. “

The Frank Znort Quartet offers a stage, a possibility, a moment for all of them, for all of those original, unique people; this seemingly random collection of personalities and lifestyles being on stage together and finding a common language in their music. “It is not about profit here. If we make money we just use it to make our ensemble even better, to make even better music, to find even greater fulfillment,“ says Arne while watching one of his colleagues perform: “We also created two music schools in Africa and if we make some money we use it to buy some instruments to ship them over there or to buy plane tickets so that the kids from there can come and play with us here.“

So every Sunday evening they all come here, a man with a devil’s voice, a woman in a flower dress, a professional saxophonist, an elegant transsexual, a dynamic drummer, a Brazilian singer. They find liberation and energy, they get carried away and drag the audience right along.

“We just recorded an album at the Abbey Road Studios in London. And then it hit me – this is working and I am being part of it! That gives you such a rush of self-esteem,“ Sidney explains. “Really it is nice… but after all, that is not why we are doing it,“ he adds before jumping on stage.

So as long as they have a stage to play jauntily, to sing jazz and dance Tango, untroubled and open, nothing else seems to matter. At least not on a Sunday night. Or as Gard sums it up: “It’s such a horrible, disgusting weather today in Oslo. But in here, there’s always sun.“

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