WHAT IS IT about Icelandic jazz that is so beguilingly magnetic? Is it the musical risk-taking – an artistic openness which (maybe through our idealised imaginings) reflects something of the beauty of the island’s vast, unspoilt landscapes; or do the changeable climatic conditions of this land of Aurora Borealis play their part?
Although pianist Kristján Martinsson is a native of Iceland, his colleagues in this European, Amsterdam-based piano trio hail from further afield – bassist Pat Cleaver (UK/France) and drummer Andris Buikis (Latvia). Together in this particular project since 2008 – and winners of three Icelandic Music awards – the thirteen compositions and improvisations of K Tríó’s fourth album Vindstig take their inspiration from thirteen Icelandic words for wind, musically evoking their varied, mercurial effects. And appropriately, the players also judiciously augment their sound with wind instruments (Cleaver, for example, being an accomplished trombonist).
The CD is packaged in a translucent paper sleeve sealed with a diamond-shaped sticker – not so ideal in terms of storage longevity; but it does immediately make a creative statement, containing rugged, monochrome artwork from visual artist Helga Paley which serves to enhance the originality of this music when back-projected during live shows.
K Tríó are gloriously unpredictable – a status which, magically, doesn’t alter over time – and their sound palette is as intriguing as it is alluring. Miniature abstract soundscapes segue into one another whilst longer, more structured gems sparkle and spike with a clear understanding of swing and be-bop. The sustained, slowly-oscillating resonances of Logn (calm) and Andvari (breeze) imply chilled, graduated azure skies… but they offer no clue to enraged Stormur, with its magnificent hullabaloo of hard, angular percussion/bass and boisterous piano. Introduced by a chirpy flute/trombone/melodica grouping, melodious Stinningsgola goes on to display a bright piano trio likeness to e.s.t. or Christof Stiefel; and Rok is impressively infused with the kind of snappy, complex, bass-driven vigour associated with Phronesis.
Serene Gola is carried on a curiously-created, sympathetic jet stream of analogue effects, whilst capriciously rhythmic Kaldi leads to the audacious, heavy turbulence of Ofsaveður which teases with irregular cowboy-style riffs and thunderous high jinx. Kul is hymn-like, its gently-flowing piano and cymbals underpinning luscious, legato trombone melodies; and crashing Fárviðri (violent storms), foaming with an ominous flute and trombone tumult, finds Martinsson almost battling Buikus for percussive supremacy (with a ‘twister’ in the tail)! Evidence to surely suggest an exciting live experience.
Offering the wondrous vitality and delicacy of written and improvised jazz, delivered through a refreshing and satisfying range of instrumental voices and timbres, I hope the long-range forecast for K Tríó remains “cyclonic, northwesterly, 7 to severe gale 9″… and always excellent!
Kristján Martinsson piano
Pat Cleaver double bass
Andris Buikis drums
+ various wind instruments