Published 02.09.14 by Terje Mosnes for Jazzinorge.no:
Their debut album «Resection» (Bolage) was released in 2011. The following year came «Göteborg» (Gigafon), and now Thomas Johansson (cornet), Kristoffer Berre Alberts (sax), Ola Høyer (double bass), and Gard Nilssen (drums) just released Cortex´ first live album. The record is released at the portuguise cutting edge label Clean Feed, is called «Live!», and is a recording of a live concert at National Jazz Scene Victoria in Oslo, september 2013.
If the album should trigger a déja vu amongst the Cortex listeners, it`s because four of the seven Johansson compositions on «Live!» also exists as studio versions on «Resection» and «Göteborg». That makes little difference, studios and stages are different sizes for Cortex as for every other band, and «Live!» presents the instant dimension quivering at the fullest.
In example, Johansson finishes the eight minute long «Interlude» and starts of «Hub» with a cornet solo on the verge of spontaneous combustion, and Alberts also have a pretty outgoing and inspiring day at work with strong solos in different colors. The two horns sends of horn bullets which more than picks humbly on Atomic colleagues Ljungkvist/Broo´s sleeves, and in these sections bassist Høyer and drummer Nilssen sounds more like a rocket launcher than a straight rhythm section. In other moments they settle with filling the bottom of the sound in a more traditional driving way, yet always ongoing and flexible, with a strong presence.
The 60`s constellation of Coleman/Cherry, and the much later Zorn/Douglas line up is often mentioned as a reference for the interplay between Alberts and Johansson. That tends to makes sense, mostly sound wise, but i find the original, organic changes between striking, almost naiv melodics and super complex, but yet completely logic abstractions of Ornette Coleman as a stronger reference for Alberts and Johansson, as heard in the version of «Endorphin».
It is a saying, that «everyone stands on the shoulders of their precursors». There is undoubtedly some trumpet/cornet players standing on top of each other between the shoulders of Buddy Bolden, and the feet of Thomas Johansson, but maybe fewer than one might first assume. There is much blues in him and his Cortex colleagues, and it is notable through hip harmonizations and rhythmic kicks. Cortex, in all, covers much of the jazz tradition, old and modern, in their musical web. And even stronger than the nice «Göteborg», «Live!» shows a band which now establishes themselves on a high level on which especially the view downwards is becoming quite good.
Published 15.08.14 by Lars Mossefinn for Dag og Tid:
Dew fresh traditional music
The quartet Cortex of Thomas Johansson has released record number three on the highly reputable label Clean Feed. Let us hope that with this album, they will get a stronger international reputation, because this band really deserves it.
The recording is from a live show at The National Jazzscene september 12th last year. Ingar Hunskaar has done a brilliant job both recording, mixing and mastering. The sound is dynamic, glass clear and transparent, but with the necessary power that the music demands. Despite that big parts of the tunes can be found on previous studio recordings, the music stands out as dew fresh and thorough. The arrangements are simple, effective, and spiced with many refined details. The drumming of Gard Nilssen on «Hub» is a continuous example of that.
Johansson writes nice tunes. He balances the simple and melodic with dissonant contrasts, and tempo and rhythms are also varied tastefully. «Endorphin» is of classic format. Both Johansson and Høyer delivers strong solos. Høyer´s solo on «Hub» deserves a star, but Alberts is outstanding throughout the record. His vast range of ideas seems endless. He combines the simple with clear statements. The assertiveness impresses.
Check out Cortex. You deserve it.
Published on 22/10/2012 by Roald Helgheim
“Flying start for Cortex” the title read last year when the band opened the jazz year with the album “Resection”, and it hasn´t slowed down since, every time the busy musicians have cleared their schedule for get on stage together. We´re talking about the band started by trumpet player Thomas Johansson in 2007, with Kristoffer Alberts (sax), Ola Høyer (bass) and Gard Nilssen (drums) still going strong on the album “Göteborg”. We won´t go into the medical aspect behind the name Cortex, but establish that musically the energy is present by 100 percent when the band with full throttle embark on titles like “Nicotine”, “Virus”, “Endorphin” and “Desibel”. With “Cerebrum” and “Hub” one makes certain reflections. Abundant energy, in the footprints of Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman and others. Saxophone, trumpet, drums and bass is a format that requires full presence, and it´s this ability to keep up steam that makes Cortex a live band in a class of its own.
By Jan Granlie, Published 13.12.2012
”Göteborg” is the second album of the hard beating band Cortex. Their debut album got extensively and well earned cred in Jazznytt and other publications, and it will surprise me alot if they don`t get the same amount of atention on this recording.
”Veteran-drummer” Gard Nilssen is as usual a massive drive force in this, as he is in many other bands. His playing only gets more and more impressive, and his abillity to drive on is almost outstanding. The bassist, Ola Høyer, is rock solid and keeps control over the other guys. The two horn players, Thomas Johansson and Kristoffer Alberts, is our two new comrades in the energy jazz field. They go on it at one hundred, and just keeps on going. Alberts is a younger version of Kjetil Møster, and Johansson is like Freddie Hubbard on acid.
Solistic, it is Johansson and Alberts in front, and talk about front soldiers! This is two musicians who fits each other perfectly, and it is clear that these two know each other well. The communication is perfect as the race along the themes before they maneuver away from the GPS as the most natural thing in the world, and then suddenly finds their way back. And in the moments they take it down a notch, it is in some kind of Don Cherry spriritual matter, which fits perfectly with the playing of Høyer and Nilssen.
As you can see, this is ”action jazz” of the finest brand. Not free jazz, like we are used to, but organised energy and power from start to finnish.
Six tunes, all but one written by Johansson, and one by Alberts/Johansson/Høyer.
Those of you who enjoy The Core and Jazzmob, will fall head over heals by Cortex` latest.Just get out on the ice and find one of the few record stores left, and invest! Because this is music tougher than most of the trains NSB can come up with!
By EYAL HAREUVENI, AllAboutJazz, Published: December 3, 2012
Norway’s Cortex released its highly promising debut, Resection (Bolage), in 2011. The members of this high-octane quartet met during jazz studies in Trondheim, and began working as a band in 2007. Cortex follows the free jazz legacy of Ornette Coleman quartet with trumpeter Don Cherry, spicing it with wise, original compositions and uncompromising performances inspired by fellow powerful Scandinavian outfits such as Atomic, The Core and The Thing.
Cortex’s sophomore recording, Göteborg—named after the Swedish city where it was recorded —keeps this quartet in a fresh and kicking mood, the quartet still bursting with reckless energy. Trumpeter Thomas Johansson’s writing is strong, possessing a melodic touch anchored by the powerful rhythm section of bassist Ola Høyer and drummer Gard Nilssen. The band’s camaraderie excels with telepathic, tight interplay.
The album’s six compositions feature the group’s breadth of musical range. Saxophonist Kristoffer Alberts (a member of Saka) and Johansson exchange confident and challenging solos which frame the unstoppable, muscular drive of “Nicotine.” The restless, rolling Nilssen leads his quartet mates into the territory of John Zorn’s Masada quartet, following that group’s effortless, wild and energetic interplay and infectious sing-along melodies. The slow-burning “Endorphin” is a slow-burning piece featuring Johansson’s brilliantly charismatic solo—referencing Atomic trumpeter Magnus Broo’s free and impressive phrasing—followed by Alberts’ soaring solo.
“Decibel” draws inspiration from Zorn’s cut-and-paste compositional techniques, alternating between massive rhythmic pattern and Johansson and Alberts’ short, focused eruptions. “Cerebrum” unfolds patiently around Johansson and Alberts’ emotional yet reserved solos, rooted by Nilssen and Høyer’s gentle, playful rhythm. The closing “Hub” has a loose structure that leaves room for Alberts and Johansson’s inspired, ferocious articulations, pushed by a tireless rhythm section.
Göteborg establishes Cortex as one of the greatest bands currently working in Norway.
Published 23.11.12 by Lars Mossefinn
Cortex has obviously not heard of the difficult ”Second Album”.
Cortex does it again with a combination of raw force and melodic vertue. Even though Thomas Johansson esatblished the band in 2007, it was not until their debut, ”Resection”, in 2011 the band became a hype in the Jazz community. An impressive concert at Molde Int. Jazz festival the same year, makes ”Göteborg” longed for.
Thomas Johansson is an exciting composer, who delivers six pieces which all has it`s character, but also works as a starting point for long stretches of improvisation. Johansson gets his inspiration from different music. ”Endorphin” could easily be taken for a Ornette Coleman tune, while ”Cerebrum” gives a feel of Dave Hollands evergreen ”Confrence og The Birds”.
American Avantgarde is the musical foundation for Cortex, but otherwise this is a sound anno 2012. The band continously switches between the free and the structured, but it is rythm and melody who stands strongest. A big part of what makes this album, is the freedom which is given the two horn soloists. They pay their respect with inspiring play. Høyer and Nilssen dances along, and their playing gives a feeling of driving through the mountains of Gol in spring time. They have created a fresh live-feel sound in the studio.
Dispite their name, there is only whole wood in Cortex`music. Jazz music without substances.
By Jan Granlie, Jazznytt:
Some times, yet not so often, CD`s appear that you don`t have any knowledge of before you put it in the CD player. Either the records remains almost unknown, you play it and it falls into the big pile of records, or you are caught sitting with your ears on edge shouting out words that don`t fit to print in a respectable magazine. Cortex` debutalbum is definetly one of the rear ones that fits the last description! Cause, this is awsome! Here you rage away in a landscape, crossing between Atomic and The Core, pluss some elements of old Ornette Coleman. Young musicians with no knowledge of taking it slow. Energy that exceeds an average sized power plant, and playing that fascinates immencely!
All the compositions is made by the trumpeter Thomas Johansson, but it sounds like all of the musicians has had a finger or two in forming of the tunes.
The trumpeter Thomas Johansson plays in a ”broken” style, not far away from Magnus Broo and Don Cherry. Kristoffer Alberts has got the all the sounds of Kjetil Møster in his horn. Ola Høyer is rock solid, and Gard Nilssen is the train driver with a solid atocracy behind the drums. They only sometimes show a bit of”maner” and calms it down a bit, but that don`t last for long! Soon they are back on the frenetic track. But also when they calm down it is energetic and beautiful. Rearly beautiful!
”Resection” is simply one of the biggest musical surprises i`ve been delivered since the first record from Atomic. Everything is sparklingly well played, with enormous quality! Cortex has, with this album, seriously established themselves in the top range of Norwegian and International jazz!
Clubs and festivals: Put these guys into work! That`s an order!
By Roald Helgheim, Dagsavisen:
“Get ready for a meeting with yet another young, Norwegian jazz band in the class of the best.
The name is Cortex.”
They have been on the road since 2007, and now it`s ready for their debutalbum Resection. Johansson has composed all the music, and toghether with Kristoffer Alberts og tenor, Ola Høyer on double bass, and Gard Nilssen on drums, they fearlessly go at it with music they say is inspired by musicians such as Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and John Zorn. You don`t need to know that to understand that this is four musicians with a purpose, with original compositions with strong energy, and with music that speaks a clear and understandable language. The pianist Mary Crispell once said to me that avantgarde is a word misused by music created 50 years ago, while real avantgarde is to be ahead of your time. That I think these four musicians, regardless of genrelabel, is well aware of as they rage away with “Phineas Gage”, “Milotic Cycle”, none the least “Neocortex”, “Gray Matter” and “Auditory Cortex”, with strong and variated songs.
Many would conect Cortex with the brain tissue, but is also exists in the medical term of the kidney tissue, and what about Resection? It is the medical terms refers to the removal of an organ, but don`t let yourself wonder of with to deep reflections about surgery.
Cortex is four musicians whitch, despite their young age, has an extensive list of acheivements, whitch is often more common these days for the young jazzgeneration. That is why this is a confident band with brilliant soloists, and exiting tunes!
With this album, this Norwegian jazzseason really gets a kickstart!
By Tor Hammerø, Nettavisen:
Saxophonist Kristoffer Alberts from Oslo, bassist Ola Høyer from Bergen, trumpeter, band leader and composer Thomas Johansson and drummer Gard Nilssen – both of the latter from Skien – has since 2007, laid the foundation for what has become the band’s first CD. Johansson has his formal education from Stavanger while the three others have finished their jazz studies in Trondheim. Well-educated young men in other words, but what we are served here suggests that the four have found a musical core beyond the textbooks. This is modern, raw jazz with free frames, solid melodic and rhythmic elements, which
immediately ensures that Cortex runs into the young norwegian jazz elite
and it also means that they hold a very high international standard as well – that`s how high the level of modern jazz in this country is.
Thomas Johansson, who is a new and very nice acquaintance to me, is obviously the ideological chief here.
He wrote all the music and makes no secret of his fascination towards heroes as Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and John Zorn. At the same time Cortex emphasises the ties to the Nordic/European expression, where trumpet players such as Magnus Broo and Kenny Wheeler have obviously inspired Johansson & Co.
From time to time it flyes away at a hellish pace and with an insane punch, but Cortex can definitely take advantage of the dynamics, and take it down when it feels right.
Cortex is a hot group, but in the same time all four stands out as extraordinary soloists. Johansson has already been mentioned, but both Alberts and not least Nilssen delivers solo excursions of a rare caliber. Høyer is already rock solid and Cortex will be very interesting to follow in the years to come.