The Many Modes Of Guitarist Hedvig Mollestad


Hedvig Mollestad is among the 25 artists DownBeat thinks will help shape jazz in the decades to come.

(Photo: Thor Egil Leirtrø)

​“Especially in the beginning, when we were kind of searching for ourselves—we were just playing music and we didn’t think too much about, ‘What are we going to make,’” guitarist Hedvig Mollestad said about her eponymous trio as she lounged in the grass outside of her Oslo apartment. “We just kind of made music and played it, and it’s kind of evolved naturally with what we were doing live.”

On stage, the group fills in the cracks between peak ’70s metal, prog and rock-oriented jazz, shifting from Sabbath-esque riffing to Mollestad’s fluid leads, propped up by Ivar Loe Bjørnstad’s truculent drumming and Ellen Brekken’s pressurized bass work.

An aspect of all the guitarist’s varied live settings has been a range of festival-related commissions, one from Vossajazz resulting in the 2020 album Ekhidna (Rune Grammofon). That record, though, expands on the bandleader’s trio—compositionally and in terms of the ensemble members she enlists—even as Mollestad sees similarities between this latest dispatch and previous efforts.

A few cuts on Ekhidna, like “Antilone,” mirror the sort of aggression her working combo has trucked in during the past 10 years. But the second half of the new disc dips into a more contemplative mode and features a lithe solo spot for the bandleader—sparsely supported by electric keys and aptly titled “Slightly Lighter.” It’s a different kind of feature than what Mollestad’s performed in more rockist settings, the tune seeming to narrate a folktale, not an action movie.

“I wish I was playing a lot more abroad, because I would like to play with people that are not Norweigian,” she said, pausing to acknowledge the pandemic’s travel limitations, the convivial community of players she’s embedded herself with at home and aspirations for the future. “Playing with Susana [Santos Silva, the Portuguese trumpet player] on Ekhidna, bringing her into that band with all the other guys—we were all having the same references. ... She came with so many other kinds of inputs and thoughts, and ways of looking at things—just because she was from another place and came from another background.” DB

This story originally was published in the November 2020 issue of DownBeat. Subscribe here.

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