‘Everything In Between’ – Huw Warren Trio

PIANIST HUW WARREN’s long-held association with and deep understanding of Brazilian music has continued to inform both the vitality and sensitivity of his own compositions as well as elegant reinterpretations of South American jazz jewels – and on new release Everything In Between, with bassist Dudley Phillips and drummer Zoot Warren, he presents a rich tapestry of works which are a delight to get to know.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 15 March in the UK (29 March worldwide).

 

Huw Warren piano
Dudley Phillips electric bass, double bass
Zoot Warren drums

huwwarren.co.uk

CAM JAZZ – CAMJ 7942-2 (2019)

‘Fundur’ – Ingi Bjarni Trio

Fundur - cover 300 x 300

ICELANDIC pianist and composer Ingi Bjarni Skúlason’s 2015 album, Skarkali, was released under the name of the Skarkali Trio. Now continuing as the Ingi Bjarni Trio, he and colleagues Bárður Reinert Poulsen (double bass) and Magnús Trygvason Eliassen (drums) explore eight more of the pianist’s originals in Fundur (translated: ‘a finding/discovery’ or ‘to have found something’).

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 7 September 2018, Fundur is available from Dot Time RecordsAmazon and iTunes.

 

Ingi Bjarni Skúlason piano, compositions
Bárður Reinert Poulsen double bass
Magnús Trygvason Eliassen drums

ingibjarni.com

Dot Time Records – DT9079 (2018)

‘Reset’ – Andy Nowak Trio

Reset2

ANDY NOWAK TRIO (ANt) follow-up 2016’s debut, Sorrow and the Phoenix, with another fine sequence of eight numbers (virtually all originals) in new album, Reset.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Reset releases on 2nd March 2018, when it will be available as CD or digital download at Bandcamp.

Andy Nowak piano
Spencer Brown double bass
Steve Davis drums

andynowaktrio.com

Self-released – 2018

‘The Chamber Music Effect’ – Vein

GIVEN THE proliferation of jazz piano trios out there, there’s something remarkably open and inviting about Vein’s ‘chamber music effect’.

Pianist Michael Arbenz, drummer Florian Arbenz and bassist Thomas Lähns have been around a while – after just over a decade together, this is the Swiss trio’s tenth album; and with a cover lobe reminiscent of Manfred Mann’s ‘The Roaring Silence’, The Chamber Music Effect is very much about audible space – ‘the gaps in-between’ – as well as the sheer, percussive dynamism of their performance. The album title and ethos stem from their classical training, as well as the freedom of interpretation to be found in chamber works, which reflects the band’s philosophy: “interplay and the greatest possible equality for all members”.

Comparisons might well include The Bad Plus and Get the Blessing – it’s that kind of edgy, purposeful and unpredictable approach. But the enduring wonder of this stripped-down, no-hiding-place format is that each has its own identity – and Vein are no exception.

The writing of eight original compositions, across 48 minutes, is mainly provided by each of the Arbenz twins – and it’s a tour de force, both technically and emotionally. Boarding the Beat‘s impetuous groove is characterised by the falling-semitone figure of Thomas Lähns’ double bass (shades of Dan Berglund), the crashing, rapid-fire piano of Michael Arbenz, and Florian Arbenz’s fizzing percussion – straightaway, the democratic method is evident. Prelude suggests a subtle, searching air of ‘Bouncing with Bud’, its intimate swing buoyed throughout by pliant bass; and Poème de Nuit‘s slow, nighttime wanderings, delicately illuminated with chimes, offers a beguiling calm.

But Vein are capricious. In Medias Res‘s crackling chromaticism is a compelling listen, contrasting attitudinal stomp with florid, breathtaking piano runs; and Ode to the Sentimental Knowledge‘s sumptuous, chordal beauty intimates Bill Evans, though with pervasive, contemporary colour from Florian Arbenz’s kit. Quirky udu timbres announce Sheherezade – a punctuated groove which combines the lively rapport between Florian Arbenz and Thomas Lähns with incisive, bluesy piano lines; and curious arco bass harmonics are a feature of Lähns’ spacious, mysteriously rippling Pastorale.

Who knows whether Michael Arbenz’s attractive piano in this video of snappy closer, Ballet of the Monkeys, is simply a piece of ‘steam punk’ theatre or the real deal – but it provides a great snapshot of this band’s bracing energy.

Released on 21 April 2017, The Chamber Music Effect is available from Amazon, iTunes, etc.

 

Michael Arbenz piano
Thomas Lähns double bass
Florian Arbenz drums

vein.ch

UTR 4716 (2017)

‘Amorandom’ – Aki Rissanen

Amorandum

DISPLAYING a distinctly oblique yet beautifully affecting jazz sensibility, Finnish pianist and composer Aki Rissanen’s Amorandom defines ‘the piano trio’ afresh in an album which effervesces with both spontaneity and unpredictability.

Rissanen originally conceived this music, a few years ago, as a soundtrack for respected Finnish animator, Antti Peränne. Yet, in its final form – and brought to life by colleagues Antii Lötjönen (double bass) and Teppo Mäkynen (drums) – it stands in splendid isolation as an absorbing, sit-up-and-listen release full of invention, atmosphere… and startling technique. Following a distinguished progression of classical and jazz education, the pianist has steadily been developing his international career as sideman/leader (recording with the likes of Dave Liebman, Randy Brecker and Michael Gibbs); and now, this collection – described as his major international debut – confirms Nordic jazz of lucid intelligence fired by an unquenchable, crackling spirit.

From the outset, Pulsar reveals what it is that sets this trio apart – arresting, repeated piano figures (imagine Reich, Glass) and deeply-plumbed notes; relentless, skittering impetus; sudden, ‘deafening’ calm. Jangling, atonal freedom in For Rainbows becomes animated through broken piano chords and crisp bass/percussion; and Passages Pas Sages creeps icily to rapid, dull toms and expansive piano, the trio’s innate sense of intensifying exploration continually unveiling fresh expression and interest. Aleatoric grooves to Rissanen’s rich chordal depth and joyously rippling soloing (the piano detail is stunning, with Lötjönen and Mäkynen such an integral part of its make-up); and delicately ornamented étude, Signettes (studio video here), demands close attention.

A woody clarinet resonance is imaginable in the carefree, piano-octave swing of For Jimmy Giuffre – such a precise yet blithe trio performance all round. Rissanen’s growling keyboard vigour in virtuosic solo miniature Eye-Opener might equally suggest Ginastera or Gwilym Simcock, its brevity neatly leading into the dramatic swirl of Bird Vision (maybe Charlie Parker is the inspiration) which bounces off the walls with reveille-car-horn motif and jarring block-chord energy, as well as Lötjönen’s wonderfully propulsive jazz/rock-fusion bass and Mäkynen’s scintillating percussion. And, to close, title track Amorandom carries the emotive, crescendoing, piano-led yearning associated with Esbjörn Svensson – a depth of musicality which indicates that this might just be the beginning of this partnership’s long and productive journey.

The jazz piano trio format exists in many guises as an enduringly powerful, creative and emotional environment – and Rissanen, who enjoys the variety and eclecticism of all of the projects he’s involved in, humbly (and surprisingly) alludes to a mild concern that there are “too many good trios around and everything has been done before.” WAIT a minute! Put this album through a responsive sound system, and it may well become one of the finest you’ll hear this year. Outstanding.

Released on 4 March 2016, Amorandom can be purchased as CD or high quality download at Edition Records’ Bandcamp store.

 

Aki Rissanen piano
Antti Lötjönen double bass
Teppo Mäkynen drums

akirissanen.com

Edition Records – EDN1067 (2016)

‘Never Ending January’ – Espen Eriksen Trio

EspenEriksen

THE STEADFAST appeal of the jazz piano trio format continues with this limpid jewel from Norway. Following two previous releases (You Had Me At GoodbyeWhat Took You So Long) and led melodiously by pianist Espen Eriksen – with colleagues Lars Tormod Jenset (bass) and Andreas Bye (drums) – Never Ending January appears to find its lofty inspiration in misty, enforested, fjordal panoramas. And whilst that Scandinavian impression may be somewhat clichéd, this trio’s approach is, indeed, particularly elemental and spacial.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

Espen Eriksen piano
Lars Tormod Jenset double bass
Andreas Bye drums

espeneriksentrio.com

Rune Grammofon – RCD 2173 (2015)

‘Cielito Lindo’ – Sunna Gunnlaugs

Sunna

CARRIED ON A WARM, NORTHERLY BREEZE, Sunna Gunnlaugs’ previous trio release Distilled (2013) brought treasures aplenty from the pianist/composer’s native Iceland – a finely-crafted display of elegance, playfulness and imaginative free improvisation. Now, new album Cielito Lindo expands on those themes to deliver an hour-plus of 14 more engaging originals and arrangements, with bassist Þorgrímur (Toggi) Jónsson and drummer Scott McLemore.

What particularly appeals about the pianistic character of Sunna Gunnlaugs is her blend of influences which allude to Bill Evans’ and Bobo Stenson’s lyricism, yet also seem to incorporate the bright, tuneful openness of, say, Oscar Peterson and the kind of sparky, inquiring edge associated with Esbjörn Svensson. Title track Cielito Lindo has it all – opening, percussive rustlings and under-the-lid piano string shimmers unveiling Quirino Mendoza y Cortés’ charming, lilting Mexican melody upon which Gunnlaugs improvises with customary authority. Scott Lemore’s Compassion reveals the trio’s steady, delicate interaction with almost Bachian overtones; and the subtle bossa of the pianist’s own Endastopp becomes increasingly energized as it crackles to hard-edged drums and double bass.

The trio’s freely improvised ‘spin cycle’ thread continues, briefly punctuating the lengthier tracks with short settings Spin 8, 9 and 11 (maybe 10 is in the next load!) – and Dry Cycle communicates urgency through its high, ostinato piano chords, syncopated riff and memorable melody, followed by flamboyant improvisation. Seemingly obvious choice, Gershwin’s Summertime, is however reinterpreted beautifully, as fleeting snatches of the familiar strains are glimpsed through the mystery of skittering bass and drums; whilst amiable Workaround suggests e.s.t.’s blues-implied impudence.

Jónsson’s Vetrarstef possesses the yearning eloquence of a classic theme tune, its wintry folksiness occasionally redolent of acoustic Mike Oldfield; and Gunnlaugs’ Icelandic Blues snaps and crunches its way through seven glorious minutes which brim with smile-raising chromatic jollity, jaunty piano extemporisation and a thunderously percussive conclusion – a tour de force! Contrasting Tiltekt is exquisitely homely, its chiming melodies afforded the space to resonate; and All Agaze (another of McLemore’s gems) twists and turns unpredictably – ebullient grooving, yet with darker, Gustavsen-like moments. And to close… well, the songwriting of Tom Waits is frequently a source of jazz inspiration, and his Johnsburg, Illinois receives a faithful, picturesque outing from the trio, highlighting Waits’ penchant for a good melody.

Once again, Gunnlaugs and her trio achieve their discerning balance of tuneful accessibility, compositional distinctiveness and the constantly-undulating landscape of delicacy and high energy. A remarkable achievement – and a very fine album.

Released on Sunny Sky Records on 14 August 2015, Cielito Lindo is available at Bandcamp.

 

Sunna Gunnlaugs piano
Þorgrímur Jónsson double bass
Scott McLemore drums

sunnagunnlaugs.com

Sunny Sky Records – 733 (2015)