by Jeff Niesel
In the 2008 film Throw Down Your Heart, banjo man Bela Fleck takes a trip to Africa to discover the instrument’s roots. It’s a fascinating look at how wildly different styles of music can be connected. It even inspired Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, who leads the experimental jazz/indie rock/hip-hop group the Young Mothers, to write the song “Ruth.” He brings his band to Mahall’s at 8 p.m. on Sunday. Locals SuRAH Orchestar open the show.
“Bela was trying o prove that the banjo was an African instrument,” says Flaten via phone from his Austin home where he was rehearsing for the tour. “It’s a fascinating documentary. In one scene in Uganda, there’s a woman playing a piano. Bela performs with her. Our song is based on that song he plays. I basically rearranged it. It’s highly influenced by our trumpet player Jawwaad Taylor rapping too.”
Flaten originally started playing electric bass some 30 years ago in his native Norway.
“The scene there is quite interesting,” he says. “It’s a good situation which makes opportunities easier. There is a lot of financial support and a good infrastructure. It’s much easier than the U.S. where it is almost impossible.”
He moved first to Chicago and then to Austin, where he assembled the Young Mothers a few years ago with drummer Frank Rosaly (the Scorch Trio and Dave Rempis Percussion Quartet) and vibraphonist Stefan Gonzalez. He plucked saxophonist Jason Jackson and trumpeter/MC/electronic artist Jawwaad Taylor from Houston’s Nameless Sound. Guitarist Jonathan Horne (Plutonium Farmers, Southwestern Free) rounds out the line-up.
The group alternates between the accessible hip-hop of the aforementioned “Ruth” and more experimental tune “Fanny & Alexander,” a track that features clanging percussion and droning horns. Though the Young Mothers play what could be classified as experimental jazz/improvisation, Flaten didn’t listen to jazz while growing up.
“I came from a really small place and there was no jazz at all,” he says. “I was exposed much later. I started studying at the conservatory at Norway and that’s where my exposure began.”
Expect to hear some material from A Mother’s Work is Never Done, the band’s forthcoming studio album, due out in March on Flaten’s own label.
“It’s not the easiest thing to tour with a sextet, but I’m very excited about this tour,” Flaten says. “I hope to get out there and get some attention before the record comes out.”