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Music review: two remarkable Scandinavian trios

Together for the first time as a trio on disc, Danish drummer Morten Lund, Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson & Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset (l-r, above, photographed by Stephen  Freiheit) have delivered a wonderful, exuberant album. Norwegian drummer Per Oddvar Johansen’s trio is utterly different, somewhat darker.

Cover art based on a painting by Wilhelm Morgner (1891 - 1917)
Cover art based on a painting by Wilhelm Morgner (1891 – 1917)

Sun Blowing begins brightly with Lars Danielsson’s Little Jump – a groover that has nothing to do with “pining for the fiords”.

Recorded in a single take, it was in fact the first piece this trio recorded; the entire album was recorded on a single April afternoon.

That this trio has the proverbial “it” is apparent immediately, as is the skill and good taste of Boe Larsen; he recorded and mixed the music.

Thanks to the players’ power and precision and their mutual confidence in each other – and to Larsen – the album’s actual SOUND is a delight.

For the most part, this is a set of original pieces (the one exception is an excellent, haunting cover of Michael Brecker’s The Cost of Living), “live” in the studio.

Just once, Neset overdubs a second tenor saxophone, effectively, whilst Danielsson occasionally adds what the liner accurately calls “a subtle veil of programmed harmonies”.

Whether exuberantly grooving, going further “out”, or inclining to lyrical introspection, overtly “Nordic” or not at all, the music is consistently vital, keenly focused…no notes are wasted.

There is not a ho-hum moment, but most especially wonderful is the album’s centrepiece and longest number.

Neset’s Salme is a powerful psalm, of highly diverse hues, beautifully structured:

Sun Blowing does not amount to any Great Leap Forward, conceptually.

Neither – more than half a century earlier – did John Coltrane’s Ballads.

But both are prime examples of the uncommonly-wonderful, truly-timeless jazz album – one that really works, throughout, and which will repay however many hearings, over however many years.

Reccomended, unreservedly.

Links, additional info

Purchase, via Australian distributor

ACT label’s page for this album

Interview with Morten Lund

 

Cover image by Andrew Ridley. Artwork design by Darren Rumney
Cover image by Andrew Ridley. Artwork design by Darren Rumney

Per Oddvar Johansen has for many years been a very able, attentive, adaptable, Norwegian drummer.

Let’s Dance is not in fact his first album as leader, but it is the first one to reach many ears.

The owners of some ears may find themselves asking, “but is this Jazz?”, or “why is this called Let’s Dance?”

Those with more “open” ears know that “is this good music?” is a much better question..and that slow and solemn dances  – including non-American ones – can move both body and soul.

This album begins with its titlepiece:

Most pieces were penned by the leader, who is as much percussionist as drummer; he also (occasionally) plays/layers violins, guitars and electronics.

The studio itself is this trio’s fourth member.

Most pieces are in no hurry, do have a very pronounced Nordic accent, and are spacious, at once epic yet intimate.

I imagine that this music is very much connected to the natural world.

It is definitely not “New Agey” or “background” music.

Let’s Dance has grit, darker, more improvisatory, more “challenging” moments; much of it is very atmospheric, but nothing is merely-ambient.

The album rewards full attention and repeated hearings.

I like most of it very much.

Helge Lien’s mostly spare and dark piano is only very occasionally “jazzy”, but always effective.

Torben Snekkestad is no clone of Jan Garbarek, but is likewise an overtly-Nordic, powerful saxophonist who can do a lot with just a few looooooong notes. (he also plays reed trumpet)

Links, additional info

Purchase from Australian distributor

Edition label’s page for this album

Artist site

Published in 'western' musics instrumental music music

2 Comments

  1. Pat Kershaw Pat Kershaw

    Superb recommendations thanks, Doug.

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