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Håkon Kornstad

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http://www.kornstad.com/ http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=15791


Kjell Kalleklev Management AS
Georgernes Verft 12, N-5011 Bergen Norway
Org.nr. 995637774, tlf:+4755557637
Fax:+4755557631 / mob: +4791103280

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Håkon Kornstad had already enjoyed quite an extensive international career as a jazz saxophonist, with his groups and solo improvisation project. Released multiple Norwegian Grammy nominated albums, reviewed several times by the New York Times, and praised by many international jazz magazines for his alternative saxophone techniques, and for his sound. Then he discovered that he had a voice. Two years later, Håkon has started gaining reputation as an operatic tenor in Norway. He was enrolled to the Norwegian Opera School for a master’s degree 2011-2013, singing Mozart, Puccini, Massenet... Spring 2012 saw him starting to include his singing with his solo saxophone show. Now he has taken it one step further with a new project. 


Never has jazz and opera been mixed this way - never has a world renowned jazz musician suddenly turned into a promising, professional opera tenor, refusing to leave his unique tenor saxophone sound behind. A real tenor battle! The arrangements are inspired from the 78 rpm-era of singing and jazz, where salon orchestras often switched between the classical hitparade and the popular music of the time.

August 2014 he recorded the material for the first album, in the legendary Rainbow Studios in Oslo, with Jan Erik Kongshaug.

The orchestra has a quite special, acoustical lineup:

Håkon Kornstad — saxophones, tenor
Sigbjørn Apeland — harmonium
Lars Henrik Johansen — harpsichord
Per Zanussi — double bass
Øyvind Skarbø — percussion




His brand new project has created quite a sensation in Norway. Never has jazz and opera been mixed this way - never has a world renowned jazz musician suddenly turned into a promising opera tenor, refusing to leave his unique tenor saxophone sound behind. A real tenor battle! The sound of “Tenor Battle” is inspired from the 78 rpm-era of singing and jazz, where salon orchestras often switched between the classical hitparade and the popular music of the time. The recipe for “Tenor Battle” is quite easy: Kornstad sings antique arias, Neapolitan songs and Puccini and Verdi arias - and he plays saxophone around it. The result however is hard to describe.

- In 2009 I was in New York playing jazz, and I had just recorded and mixed the ”Dwell Time”
album, when a friend of mine took me to see ”Cavalleria Rusticana” and ”Pagliacci” at the Met.
This was the first time I ever saw an opera (!), and I was blown away by the intensity of these
verismo pieces, and by the fact that the tenor Roberto Alagna made the whole house almost
tremble, just with his voice. Then at the same time, something within me kept saying ”you
ought to try this, maybe you’ll be good at it”.

Kornstad then started listening through all the tenor material he could find on YouTube,
spending hours and hours listening to Pavarotti, Björling, Caruso and all the others out there.
A week later he found himself in the voice studio of Met soprano Pamela Kucenic.
- It just happened. I met this young soprano at one of these horrible NY art events, however
the two of us really bonded and decided to work together the next day. When I said to her I
wanted to sing with her, not play the saxophone, she gave me the number to her teacher, and I
instantly called her. We started from scratch that April day in 2009, not knowing whether I
was a baritone, tenor – or whether I had a voice at all. But after four or five lessons, it became
clear that I was a tenor – and that one day I would be able to sing all those beautiful arias I had
been listening to on YouTube. Now, that felt like being 16 again, for sure!

Two years later, Håkon has started gaining reputation as an operatic tenor in Norway. He was
enrolled to the Norwegian Opera School for 2011/2012, and he will stay put in Oslo to focus
entirely on his singing for one year. He has also attended various masterclasses in New York,
Denmark and Norway, and he has continued to see Ms Kucenic in New York ever since. Winter
2011 saw him starting to do concerts and include his singing with his solo saxophone show.
This has been a sheer adventure for me so far, being able to work with such great teachers to
carve out this sound that has been hidden inside me all these years. I am now training as a
lyrical tenor, and my repertoire the next years will typically be ”Rigoletto” and  ”La traviata”. I
love singing the duke. My principal teacher already had me looking into ”Un ballo in
maschera”, and my dream would of course be to sing Turiddu and Canio in a big theatre one
day. If that happens maybe I’ll light a spark in an aspiring tenor just as Roberto Alagna did
with me, and then we’ve come full circle!


Video Øya-festival 2012 in Oslo: WATCH HERE

9 februar 2012 debuterte Kornstad i Den Norske Opera og Ballett som Il Podesta i Mozart-
operaen «La finta giardiniera». En drøy måned tidligere var han nominert til
Spellemann for årets jazzplate. Nå er Håkon Kornstad klar med sitt nye prosjekt «Tenor
Battle» der han ikke er snauere enn at han kombinerer nettopp opera og jazz. De første
øvingsopptakene bærer bud om musikk som savner sidestykke i denne verden.
"Tenor battle" het det når to saksofonister møttes til kamp om hvem som spilte fortest, hippest
og coolest på femtitallet en gang. I Kornstads nye prosjekt betyr "tenor battle" møtet mellom
en tenorsaksofonist og en operatenor - i en og samme mann! 
Det nye bandet kan best beskrives som et slags oppdatert salongorkester, inspirert av 78plate-
æraen, der jazzsvisker lever side om side med opera-arier, og vakre ballader avløses av
improviserte strekk i kjent Kornstad-stil. Det er ikke ofte denne klisjeen kan brukes i fullt
alvor; dette er musikk du aldri har hørt maken til. 
Håkon Kornstad er kjent som en av landets fremste saksofonister, med en tone og klang så
varm at den kan smelte hva som helst. Han har gitt ut flere bejublede langspillere i eget navn,
vært frontfigur i Wibutee og vært med på å revitalisere den norske jazzen på 2000-tallet. Han
har vært nominert til Spellemann flere ganger, blitt nevnt som et av verdens jazzhåp av
anerkjente amerikanske tidsskrifter og fått stjerneanmeldelser i selveste New York Times.

Så fant Håkon Kornstad ut at han kunne synge – opera!

Kornstad så sin første opera i New York i 2009 (!). Han ble totalt bergtatt og begynte et intenst
egenstudium av kjente operatenorer – på YouTube. En uke senere befant han seg i
Metropolitan-sopranen Pamela Kucenic sitt studio. Der fikk han bekreftet en gryende følelse.
Han hadde virkelig et operatalent. Etter en rekke privattimer i New York søkte Kornstad på
operahøgskolen i Oslo. Han kom rett inn. Og etter debuten i Bjørvika å dømme, har han funnet
sitt rette element nummer to. Det er en leken, ledig og potent Kornstad vi møter. Han bekler
operarollen til fulle. 
I "tenor battle" behandler han arier av Bizet og Richard Strauss med en dyp og original
respekt, som lar dem skinne på en helt ny måte, i en slags tenor-tevling mellom sax og
stemme.   Kornstads "Tenor Battle" er et eksperiment. Ingen kan sies å ha fått til å kombinere opera og
jazz tidligere. Det har liksom ikke villet blande seg. Det er altså litt av et ulendt terreng bandet
skal ut i denne sommeren, noe som krever at frontfiguren er like dypt forankret i opera som i
jazz. Er det noen som kan få det til, så er det faktisk Håkon Kornstad.
I 2016 ble Kornstad hedret med Buddy-prisen.



In the fifties, the jazz saxophonists competed in playing fastest and loudest and called it a Tenor Battle. In Håkon Kornstad’s new ensemble the expression takes on a rather different meaning, when he mixes his newfound tenor voice with his unique tenor saxophone playing. The UK jazz magazine JazzWise writes this about a recent concert in St Martin-in-the-fields: “Håkon Kornstad and his ‘Tenor Battle’ troupe have fashioned a triumphant Bartok-reversal, the successful contextualising of high-end tropes into the folk firmament.”

And the sound? Caruso meets Coltrane? Garbarek meets Björling? On Tenor Battle, opera arias by Massenet, Gluck and Bizet, as well as classical art songs are mixed seamlessly with Scandinavian Jazz. Håkon Kornstad sings in Italian, French and German, bringing back memories of old world salon music. And then he plays the saxophone, with his distinct warm sound. Sigbjørn Apeland’s harmonium sounds like a blend between strings and wind instruments, and drummer Øyvind Skarbø plays nuanced on arias that were never intended for drums. Harpsichordist Lars Henrik Johansen fits in naturally with his baroque instrument on romantic pieces, while double bassist Per Zanussi also plays the singing saw, without it ever turning circus-like.The musicians in Kornstad’s ensemble have their backgrounds in jazz, folk and classical music. They have worked intensively with the freedom to improvise and arrange, be it instrumental numbers or classical arias—respectfully and playfully at the same time. Four years have passed since they first met as a group, and their intention has been to let the group sound find its way organically over time, through rehearsals and concerts throughout Norway.

This beautiful and truly genre-bending jazz album is also the debut of Håkon Kornstad as classical singer. Enjoy Tenor Battle!




The audience was probably already satisfied by the five first instrumental tracks. Then Håkon Kornstad launches into a baroque opera aria “O del mio dolce ardor” by Gluck, followed by a Neapolitan song “Ideale” by Tosti. Almost a legendary story of personal change already — Kornstad discovered opera in New York at age 32, and started taking singing lessons with a retired Met soprano just weeks after. Now six years later he has a masters degree in opera and is hired for full operatic roles. In his own concerts he keeps combining classical singing with his very own saxophone jazz looping.
A full length studio album with the Kornstad Ensemble is scheduled for a long awaited release on Jazzland in October. However, Kornstad can deliver on his own, too. Listening to Live in Sarajevo certainly shortens the wait!


That such an incredible talent has not reached the ears of a wider audience is truly astonishing. To anyone with even the slightest interest in jazz and opera, Kornstad is a musician who simply must be heard, for there is no one else like him! A modern legend in jazz? No doubt about it!
— William Brown, The Journal Newcastle UK, 13/04/2015 

It could have been a virtuosic circus act, but in Kornstad’s hands was a musical tour de force. ★★★★✩
— John Fordham, The Guardian UK, 03/26/2015 

By all rights, no one person should possess as many musical talents at Håkon Kornstad. It isn’t fair to artists who devote their entire lives to a single instrument to see Kornstad picking up instruments and setting them down, producing tones and ideas that aren’t half-baked, but fully formed. Surely a few artists in the audience left the room either stewing with envy or brimming with inspiration. Masterfully trained in all of his disparate disciplines, Kornstad treated each element of his show with utter seriousness — and yet the result didn’t seem like a struggle, but a joy.
— Paul Bowers, Charleston City paper (Charleston, SC), June 2014

Kornstad sings beautifully, with a clear and open sound. It is remarkable that he should have achieved this level of vocal proficiency in less than five years. (...) Kornstad is on a journey that will take him who-knows-where. But I would not be surprised if Kornstad further insinuates himself in the world of opera and classical music, eventually throwing himself all in. Apparently, he's got the goods.
— Adam Parker, Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), June 2014



“Symphonies in my head” is all about Kornstad’s process as an improvising solo saxophonist: he brings the horns and his vintage loop machine to a room with a nice reverb, then he records his characteristic, groovy improvisations - creating layered sounds with saxophones, flutes and his flutonette. Though they may sound composed, these tracks are free improvisations that were created that very day in February 2011. Just like his critically acclaimed album “Dwell Time” (2009), “Symphonies in my head” was recorded in the Sofienberg church in Oslo. Håkon Kornstad has established himself on the international jazz scene with a warm, haunting saxophone sound that is recognizable from the first second you hear it. A solo outing by Håkon Kornstad is always a special event. Symphonies in my Head is his third solo album for Jazzland Recordings and demonstrates his will to expand his territories beyond the borders set in Single Engine and Dwell Time.

Moments that were briefly hinted at or touched upon in those two remarkable collections are now given fuller treatment. Treated loops underpin much of Kornstad's project, but now we are treated to the saxophone as a percussive instrument, where a pattern of key-presses sounds like a log drum, or notes seem to wander into sounds more in common with bowed or plucked strings. Following the same process that created Dwell Time, Kornstad again follows a path of improvisation rather than strict composition.

"When I made Dwell Time (2009) I recorded for two days in Sofienberg church, improvising with all my horns, flutes and a loop machine. Afterwards followed some weeks of picking out the best tracks, and then I had my album. Since then I've been touring extensively in Europe, with occasional concerts in USA and Japan, and the ideas that have come up on the road are the framework for the new album - Symphonies in my head.


In his newest offering, Dwell Time (Jazzland, 2009), we are again presented with his well-honed musicality, but this time the performances are all his own, in a scaled-down setting. It is a solo effort in every sense of the word.

In eight pieces we are offered a variety of expressions. From Still One, which seems to convey a reflective solitude, to the cool hipness of Oslo and the aptly titled Noir, Kornstad astounds us with his ability to masterfully grasp a spectrum of emotional output through his tenor sax, bass sax, flutonette, flute, in addition to his live looping. Recorded in the Sofienberg Chruch in Oslo, the album is produced by Kornstad as well.

«When I recorded ‘Single Engine’ in 2007, I was eager to show variety, » Kornstad states. «With Dwell Time it was different. I simply wanted to get into one mood, dwell on it – and hit the record button. Insert the expression ‘free improvisation’ here if you like; the music was created there and then, and without overdubbing or serious editing. The Sofienberg Church in Oslo provides some excellent and inspiring acoustics, and this album was the result of a couple of nights there in January, followed by a serious cull of many of the little darlings. Enjoy the survived ones here.»



 With Single Engine, Kornstad exposes his complicated, sincere and humorous musical personality. He most certainly has a lot to say and listening to his journey ought to be both enlightening and a lot of fun.
Budd Kopman - All About Jazz (US)
Solo saxophone recordings are hardly new in the jazz canon, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one like Kornstad’s Single Engine. (...) Adventurous, yet undeniably accessible, Single Engine is another rung on a ladder that Kornstad’s been climbing for the past few years.
John Kelman - All About Jazz (US)
Norwegian saxophonist Håkon Kornstad has been one of the central figures on the new Norwegian scene that aspires to break new vistas beyond the almost codified ECM representation of the Nordic scene (...) A Beautiful and impressive statement.
Eyal Hareuveni - AllAboutJazz (US)
Kornstad has conceived a singular approach to the saxophone, fully realized on this solo effort. (...) A highly inventive album. Single Engine is a definitive statement from an up and coming artist. Cadence (US)


Also available:


Two of Norway’s most exciting improvisers join forces.

A concert consists of two sets - with solos by Endresen and Kornstad in the first one, and the second one as duo. In the solo parts, both Endresen and Kornstad will be performing from their celebrated solo albums, as well as new material. When the two musicians join forces in the second set for a duo – it is without any musical sanctions. Layered, spontaneous composition for voice and saxophone perhaps a more suitable term than "free improv". Expect both vast plains of sound and shorter songs with or without lyrics. Beats, blues and a nod to the singer- songwriters. www.kornstad.com

Konserten består av to sett - med solo av Endresen og Kornstad i den første, og den andre som duo. Solodelen gir Endresen og Kornstad muligheten til å framføre egne komposisjoner fra egne plater, men også nytt materiale. Når de to musikerne kommer sammen i andre sett som duo -  er det uten noen musikalske sanksjoner. Lagdelt, spontan komposisjon for tale-og saksofon er kanskje et mer passende begrep enn fri improvisasjon. Forvent både store landskaper av lyd -og kortere låter med tekster, og beats, blues og en og annen anerkjennelse til singer-songwriter tradisjonen.  www.kornstad.com

Haakon Kornstad – saxophone - Sidsel Endresen – voice












No tourdates.

Past bookings


Rotterdam, The Netherlands

North Sea Jazz Festival


Katowice, Poland

Jazz Art Festival


Vasterås, Sweden

I Lasses Kvarter


Voss, Norway



Bergen, Norway

Grand Bergen


Oslo, Norway

Victoria/Nasjonal Jazzscene


Fredrikstad, Norway

Fredrikstad Biblioteks Aula


Salzburg, Austria



Rotterdam, Holland



Rotterdam, Holland

Rotterdanmse Schouwburg


Gateshead, UK

The Sage Gateshead


Oslo, Norway

Gamle Logen


Oslo, Norway

Kulturkirken Jacob


Bergen, Norway

Natt Jazz Bergen


Trondheim, Norway



Tønsberg, Norway

Jarlsberg Hovedgård


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Ketil Bjørnstad (artist)

There is something of the Renaissance Man about Ketil Bjornstad who is recognised as a unique figure in the a....

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Sidsel Endresen (artist)

Norwegian avantgarde pioneer Sidsel Endresen has defined and re-defined vocal sound since her break-through....

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