|Karin Krog is perhaps Norway's leading jazz singer and certainly its most idiomatic. She is a unique song artist with a great international reputation possessing her own recognizable style and voice. Her constant creative approach towards contemporary jazz has never been bound by tradition, even though her music bears a deep respect for its forms. Karin is equally at home with jazz standards, blues or electronic experimental techniques.
In addition, she has been active in improving the working conditions for musicians and contributing towards a vital jazz milieu. In 1994 she celebrated 30 years since her first released LP as a solo artist.
Photo by Fin Serck-Hansen
Karin Krog was born in Oslo, Norway, on the 15th of May, 1937, and started to sing during her teenage years together with various local musicians. She attracted attention during jam sessions at the Penguin club in Oslo, and in 1955 was hired by the pianist Kjell Karlsen to sing in his sextet, followed by her radio debut the next year. In 1957 she sang at the Humlen Restaurant in Oslo in company with some of the best Norwegian jazz musicians of that time, among others tenor saxophonist Mikkel Flagstad and pianist Einar Iversen, participating in several jazz concerts towards the end of the 1950's. She featured in radio broadcasts with several combos and in 1959 was voted first place for female jazz singer in the annual poll of the Norwegian weekly paper "Verdensrevyen" (World's Revue).
Krog was a natural choice on the bill when the first Molde International Jazz Festival was formed, appearing with the Kjell Karlsen quartet. From 1962 she fronted her own groups. In addition, she sang with trombonist Frode Thingnæs' Quintet, pianist Egil Kapstad's trio (1962-64), and studied from 1962 to 1969 with the Norwegian-American singer Anne Brown (the first Bess in Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess"). Karin made her recording debut on the LP "Metropol Jazz" in 1963, and recorded a pair of 45-rpm singles. She made her own solo album "By Myself" in 1964, and performed the same year at festivals in Antibes, France, at Gyllene Circeln in Stockholm and at Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway. In 1965 Karin received the Buddy award, the most coveted mark of honour from the Norwegian Jazz Federation. That same year pop music took over the charts and most of the Norwegian jazz clubs began experiencing difficulties, and many folded. However, Krog and her colleagues took direct action and formed the Norwegian Jazz Forum, where she became its first chairman (1965-66). The Forum was instrumental in getting jazz out of the night-clubs and into concert settings, thus securing a place for live jazz performance and providing a platform for jazz musicians to perform and to receive inspiration.
She continued with her own quartets and quintets, singing with groups led by Egil Kapstad, and recorded two singles with the rhythm & blues band "Public Enemies" (1966), before making her second LP "Jazz Moments" (which included a young Jan Garbarek).
Her international career began to take off with visits to Warsaw and Prague in 1966. In 1967 she performed in the USA with Don Ellis and Clare Fischer, appeared in Brussels, and received the first place nomination for "Artist Deserving of Wider Recognition" in Down Beat critic's poll. During the following year Karin appeared at the Montreaux festival and continued on to tour Europe in 1969 and Japan in 1970 with the Down Beat Poll Winners. Back in Norway she began studying with the singer Ivo Knecevic (1969-72), and was awarded the Norwegian Government's travel and study award in 1970, at that time an unusual honour for a jazz musician.
In 1970 and '71 she visited America, was granted a Norwegian government's work scholarship, led the European Workshop at Kongsberg Jazz Festival in 1972, and received a Norwegian "Grammy" during 1974. Also, during 1973-74, Karin took time off to study television production. To top all this off, the European Jazz Federation in 1975 elected her "Female Singer of the Year".
During most of the 1970's she fronted bands with Norwegian musicians, but from the mid-70's she often worked in small combinations, duos and trios, with prominent foreign musicians like John Surman, Bengt Hallberg, Red Mitchell, Nils Lindberg, Dexter Gordon, Achie Shepp, and Warne Marsh. In the 70's, she also co-operated on a concert programme with Richard Rodney Bennet, called "Synthesis" touring both Norway and Great Britain. In the mid-80's she appeared at several festivals with the trio Krog/Surman/Hallberg. Collaborating further with John Surman, she has continued to develop her electronic vocal techniques.
Karin Krog's merits could easily fill pages. At this present date she has given us a vast amount of recordings, the majority in her own name. She is no stranger to awards, which include "Some other spring" and " Hi-Fly" being elected as "Vocal Record of the Year" for 1971 and '77 respectively, by the well-known Japanese periodical "Swing Journal". She picked up the Oslo Council Artist Award (1981), and continued with her performances at festivals abroad: Hong Kong 1975, India in 1975 and1978, Australia in 1985, Hungary in 1989, USSR in 1990, Djakarta in 1992, Bulgaria in 1994, Umbria 1994, Beijing 1996, London Jazzfestival 1996, Leipzig Jazzfestival in 2000, and Berlin Jazzfestival in 2001. She participated at Jazz Yatra in India for the second time in 2002.
She worked extensively with Surman in the 90's and together they collaborated with a/o Carolyn Carlson and Lario Ekson on music for modern dance. With Surman she also performed in church concerts with Chorus, at Salisbury Cathedral in '1996 and at Oslo Domkirke during the Oslo Jazzfestival in 1998.
In 1987 she formed her own record company, Meantime Records which has released 10 CDs of earlier vinyl and newer materials. In 1994 Verve released a selection of the vast scope of Karin Krog's recordings, a fitting event to mark 30 years as one of Scandinavia's most successful jazz singers. In 2001 Universal Japan released the compilation "Karin's Voyage".
In 2002 Krog released another compilation "Raindrops, Raindrops" on the label Crippled Dick Hot Wax, as well as a remix of one of the tracks by Mathew Herbert. This year she also recorded with Bobby Hughes Combination a track called "Karins Kerma" on Stereo Deluxe label. She also recorded in duo with guitarist Jacob Young, a CD titled "Where Flamingos Fly" on Grappa Records. In 2003 Krog released a new album on Enja Records called "Where you at?" with Steve Kuhn trio. The album was recorded in New Your autumn 2002.
It received a nomination for the Spellemannspris in 2003. Karin´s touring commitments during that year included visits to Czechia, Slovakia, Polen and Japan as well as club appearances in Scandinavia.
In 2004 Krog performed at concerts in India and Israel, as well as appearing in numerous festivals including the Kongsberg Jazzfestival and Dølajazz in Lillehammer, Norway.
In 2005 Karin recorded a CD with the Bergen Big Band and John Surman. The CD, entitled 'Seagull' was issued on Grappa records to considerable acclaim, receiving a six star review in Norway´s Aftenposten and the following comments from New York writer Marc Medwin in 'All- AboutJazz,' ......'.Approaching 70, Krog is as energetic and as thoughtful as ever;....... this new disc sports many fine arrangements, some commited playing and a lot of fun, The Bergen Big Band is full of life, with many fine soloists......’ The cooperation with BBB led to concerts at both the Voss Jazzfestival and Sildajazz. During the year, Krog also performed in Kroatia, London, Hamburg, and Umeå, Sweden, as well as taking part in a Swedish-Norwegian tour with her group 'The Meantimes', Other recording projects in 2005 included Karin's participation in Tore Johansen's CD "Like That" and the Grappa records release of a double CD compilation of Karin's music: "Sweet Talker."
One of the highlights of Karin´s year came when she was awarded the medal of The Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, only the second time that a Norwegian jazz musician has received the prestigeous honour.
In 2006 Grappa records released "Together Again" a new duo recording with Steve Kuhn piano, and, together with Steve's trio, Karin and Toots Thielemans opened the Oslo Jazzfestival in a memorable concert at the Oslo Konserthus. Amongst other concert appearances, the Bath Music festival in duo with John Surman was notably successful.
In 2007 Karin Krog received Norway's most prestigious culture award, Anders Jahres Culture Prize.
In 2008 she received Oslo Jazzfestival's "Ella prize".
In 2011 Karin Krog teamed up with the Swedish pianist Bengt Hallberg again, performing with him at several concerts in Scandinavia and the UK, and recording a new CD - "Cabin in the Sky" - for the Swedish Gazell record label.
In 2013 Karin Krog and John Surman recorded "Songs about This and That" comprising compositions originally written as a commission for the Voss Jazzfestival 2010. This wone the Norwegian Grammy "Spellemannsprisen" in 2013.
In 2013 Karin Krog and Steve Kuhn recorded their fourth CD together,with guests,Eric Alexander and Lew Soloff (released 2014).
In 2014 Karin Krog received FFUK's Veteran prize.
For complete discographical details see:
Norwegian Jazz Discography 1905-1998 on John Bergh
with Per Borthen Swing Dept Ltd
Same album remastered for Japanese edition