Silje Nergaard has, within the last six years, established herself as one of the most original and most interesting artists working within the European jazz arena. Her latest album release, "Nightwatch" (2003, Universal Music), is her eighth album recording. Recorded in Oslo, Norway and Stockholm, Sweden, Silje Nergaard further develops her unique brand of strong melodic jazz in sophisticated arrangements, flavoured by a voice which the UK Independent has called:
"…a captivating, viola-rich timbre, played with plenty of resin on the bow so that she cuts emphatically into each note, but with perfect control. There is a candy-sweetness to her voice, but this candy is not for children. It's after-dinner candy, with black coffee and the promise of what is to follow."
"Nightwatch" contains original works by Silje Nergaard and her lyricist Mike McGurk, with the exception of the track "This Is Not America", and this shows her further development as a significant composer in the field of popular jazz. Co-produced by Georg Wadenius and Silje Nergaard, she is again joined by her trio: Tord Gustavsen on piano, Jarle Vespestad on drums, and Harald Johnsen on acoustic bass. She is joined by guest musicians Bendik Hofseth and Mangnus Lindgren on saxophones, guitarists Tom Lund and Hallgrim Bratberg, trumpet players Arve Henriksen and Peter Asplund, and others. Thematically built upon music to be played and experienced at night, "Nightwatch" drawns the listener into a world watched over by the moon, the stars, and romantic entanglement. It is up to the listener to make their own associations…
"At First Light" (Universal Music), Silje Nergaard's highly successful seventh recorded album released internationally in 2002, presented her in a setting twelve songs - nine songs which feature music written by Silje Nergaard. In its first week of release for Norway, it shot straight into the Norwegian pop charts at no. 1 - in incredible feat for a jazz album. In doing so, it made history as the only jazz album EVER to chart so high. At over 17 weeks on the pop charts, it has sold Platinum Award status in Norway and has been nominated for a Norwegian "Grammy" (Spellemannprisen) in the category for Best Jazz Album. The album is the best-selling jazz album in Norway ever.
2002 saw Silje Nergaard tour and perform the world over, to critical success as well as to public acclaim. She has performed at all the major jazz festivals, such as the North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, Stockholm Jazz Festival, Perugia Jazz Festival, Vitoria Jazz Festival (where she was voted Most Favoured Act by the audience at the festival), and many, many more. She has toured extensively in Europe and Asia, with her first concert in Hong Kong selling out at the Hong Kong Concert Hall (1,400 capacity) - over 300 fans waited in line to receive autographs after her show. She also was invited to perform for an exclusive one-week engagement at Ronnie Scott?s in the United Kingdom. Of the show, The Guardian wrote: "She avoids falling back on the straight-jazz singer's usual safe bets (scat-singing, blues inflections or much reference to standard songs), choosing instead to work over relaxed funk or minimalist slow-burn settings for ballads. She has a flexible and highly developed technique, with instrument-like qualities in her dynamic and tonal range." The Independent also stated, "… If Nergaard continues to sing and write like this, it shouldn't be long before she doesn't have to explain the correct pronunciation of her name."
2001 began to spin in a whirlwind of success. In January, she appeared with the 60-piece NRK Radio Orchestra for a special live concert including her band, focusing on her own compositions and selected standards. The event was filmed by a five-camera TV crew for later international TV and radio broadcast, and received unanimously positive critical reviews. In April, she received the honour of being the only European artist voted to participate in the prestigious Verve Now Tour, which brought her to Spain, England, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Sweden, Demark, Austria and Norway. She has toured Germany extensively, and performed at major jazz festivals such as The North Sea Jazz Festival in Den Haag, the Stockholm Jazz Festival, and numerous summer festivals in Germany, among others. In July she opened the Kongsberg International Jazz Festival as the featured performer, to a sold-out performance and an overwhelmingly appreciative audience. Shortly afterwards, she performed with the guitarist Pat Metheny at a sold-out performance at the Molde International Jazz Festival, which also received the highest critical praise. She has performed for television in Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands, and Denmark, and has been broadcasted throughout the continent.
Her highly successful previous album, "Port of Call" (Universal Music), returned Silje Nergaard to recording after a four-year absence, during which she spent time reconsidering the direction of her career. Released in March of 2000, the album presented Silje firmly as a jazz vocalist, reflecting her passion for the genre, which has always been the underlying basis of her music. Although initially meant as an homage to the art of the jazz standard that has so much influenced her, the album met with immediate success, receiving the highest critical praise from critics throughout the world. In the first week of its release, the album entered the Norwegian sales charts at no. 7, and remained in the top-twenty for 12 weeks. Such success is notably unusual for a jazz album, and especially for an artist who had not been active for the preceding four years. A single from the album, "Shame on You", landed the no. 1 spot for the summer's most requested radio play on the state-run Norwegian Broadcast Radio (NRK). Clearly, Silje Nergaard was not only back with unprecedented force, but also established herself as one of the few jazz performers to achieve critical as well as commercial success.
Silje's public recognition in the jazz world came at the age of 16, when she joined an impromptu jam session on stage at Norway's Molde International Jazz Festival with a band comprising of Ex-Jaco Pastorius?s musicians (the touring band after his death) and unknowingly launched an international career. National jazz journalists applauded this discovery, lauding the new vocal star appearing on jazz's horizon. Almost overnight, Silje became one of the most respected jazz vocalists in Norway, characterised by her uniquely heartfelt and passionate style of singing. Her unusual and original vocal improvisations thrilled audiences and critics alike. The world-renowned guitarist Pat Metheny also was similarly impressed, enough so to recommend her to noted producer Richard Niles, who promptly signed her to his label Lifetime Records (EMI).
Her debut single "Tell Me Where You're Going" (1990) achieved a top-40 placing in the British charts, spending 15 weeks in the UK Top 100. The album featured a duet with Pat Metheny on guitar. A top-10 album in Scandinavia, "Tell Me Where You're Going" reached Number 1 on the Japanese J-Wave charts, where it was released by Toshiba-EMI. On many Japanese stations Silje became the artist to receive the most airplay for that year. She was also the first western artist to ever perform at the magnificent Heian Shrine in Kyoto (the Japanese equivalent of the Vatican). A brand of wine was also named after her in Japan!
Her second album, "Silje", featured a duet with Morten Harket, the lead singer of the band A-HA, and one of Silje?s most ardent supporters. Her third album, "Cow On the Highway", was a daring and fascinating combination of jazz with a blend of country and western.
After three albums sung in English, Silje returned to Norway to release two self-produced albums in her native tongue. "Brevet" ("The Letter", 1995), continued the engaging mix of country and pop, with the edge of jazz, featuring lyrics by some of Norway?s most respected writers. "Hjemmefra" ("From Home", 1996) featured Silje with an 8-piece male vocal group consisting of members from the vocal group Gli Scapoli, the internationally acclaimed male choir. This recording revealed a new, innovative direction for Silje in its use of unusual vocal harmonies and in the experimentation of vocal textures. These albums were released on the Norwegian Kirkelig Kulturverksted label.
In December of 1999, Silje Nergaard received an Honorable Mention Award for her pop composition "I Don't Want to See You Cry" from the prestigious USA Songwriter Competition. Her song "On and On" was used in the Korean film "Interview", and the Hong Kong artist Cass Phang recorded the song "Brevet" ("The Letter") for an album and single released in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and China. In 2002, the recording group STATE recorded two of her songs for their album STATE (Universal Music). One song from this album, "It?s A Crying Shame", was used for that year?s theme song in the nationally televised charity "Folkeaksjonen 2002". Silje continues to provide high-quality commercial songs for other artists to record.
Silje Nergaard is currently touring throughout the fall of 2003 and into 2004.