Adam Baldych & Helge Lien Trio: Brothers – A Review

Finally, another jazz review

As the subtitle of my blog indicates, I write about Classical Music and Jazz.

I really don’t have a strong preference between the two genres, I love them both very much. However, I’m not sure how much of an overlap there is between the following of the two genres among the readers of my blog. Please comment below and let me know if you prefer one style over the other, or if you like both like me.

In the beginning of my blog, I usually tried to alternate between Jazz and Classical for my blog posts. Recently, there has been a significantly higher percentage of classical on my blog. This is not because my preferences have changed, but rather because I prefer to review recent new releases, and not be reviewer no. 2173 to tell you that Kind Of Blue is a pretty decent album (it is by the way…)

And recently, the number of Jazz releases I like hasn’t been that big. And given that this blog is my personal one, I feel no obligation to write a bad review of an album I just don’t care about.

That’s why the average review score on my blog is somewhere between 4 and 5 stars, it’s just much more fun writing about stuff that is really good.

When I give lower reviews like the one that follows, it is typically about artists I care about, that often in the pre-streaming days I would have bought just for the name.

To wrap up this long intro: if you like Jazz and have been disappointed a bit by my blog recently, don’t dispair, I haven’t forgotten about this genre. I just can’t guarantee a 50/50 distribution of genres right now. The easiest solution is to subscribe to my blog, check out the headline, like this you can easily get alerted when a new post comes out.

Helge Lien

Helge Lien is one of these names. So far I’ve loved all his trio albums very much, see my review of his latest albums here and here. So I was very pleased to see that after Guzuguzu, Helge now released another album, on the German label ACT.

And as expected, I like very much what Helge does here.

So where is the obvious BUT?

Adam Baldych / Helge Lien Trio / Tore Brunborg – Brothers (ACT 2017)

Adam Baldych Helge Lien Trio Brothers Tore Brunborg 24 88 ACT 2017

Well, here it comes; It is the sound of Adam Baldych’s violin. Don’t get me wrong, Baldych is a fantastic musician. I can really appreciate his artistry here.

But I simply cannot get used to the sound of his violin in this context. It doesn’t fit.

So, this review, as usual on my blog, will be a very personal one.

There are tracks I really love, like the appropriately named Love, you get the full beauty of Helge’s trio, and Baldych decides to go pizzicato, during most of the track, i.e. plucking the strings, not using his bow.

But when he uses his bow all the time, I tend to switch off. A typical example is Faith, I simply can’t listen to the entire track.

Or take Cohen’s Hallelujah, a song I love even in the slightly cheesy Jeff Buckley version. If you’d take the violin out of this track, absolutely, like this, sorry, not my cup of tea.

Another solo addition to this album is the Norvegian saxophone player Tore Brunborg, that I knew from collaborations with Tord Gustavsen (Extended Circles) or Manu Katché.

Unfortunately, on this album he very much reminds me of Jan Garbarek. And I must admit, with a few important exceptions, that is a very particular sound I’m also not that fond of. So take a track like One or Brothers, which combine the two, and no way I won’t press the “skip” button before the track is over.

So, in a nutshell, great musicians, but not for me. You should still check it out, the playing is very good.

My rating: 3 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz) and here (Prostudiomasters)

 

Helge Lien’s New Album Guzuguzu – Fantastic

It’s been a while – sorry

This must have been the longest time between blog posts ever, and I don’t feel good about this.

My only excuse is work (my day job), I’m traveling more than ever including some intercontinential trips (actually, I’m writing this from an airport lounge) and free time was pretty much down to zero.
It doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon, but I still hope I’ll be able to write my weekly blog post (there is more than enough material and notes in my Evernote account).

Helge Lien

I’m a big fan of Norvegian pianist Helge Lien. His trio albums Natsukashii and Hello Troll feature regularly in my playlists, and I’ve given a 4 star review to his previous album Badgers and Other Beings.

So when his latest trio album came out, I was naturally very interested, as a matter of fact, I bought it in less than a day after it came out (I still buy albums, digitally, in spite of also subscribing to streaming, to ensure that artists make at least some money from their art).

Guzuguzu (Ozella Music 2017)

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I really didn’t have to hesitate a long time because the album is truly outstanding.

It is probably my favorite since Hello Troll. You get Scandinavian lyricism combined with often extremely complex rhythms. And even peaceful ballads like Shitoshito (Raining Quietly) get their share of chordal shifts and interesting rhythmic breaks.

Lien plays with his usual companions, Frode Berg on bass, and Per Oddvar Johansen on drums, and you can really hear the intimate connections between the musicians all the time, they truly melt into one common instrument.

Add to this that the recording quality of this album is outstanding, as produced again with recording Engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug at the brilliant Oslo Rainbow studio, this album really cannot be recommended higher if you like Scandinavian trio jazz, or actually trio jazz in general.

My rating: 5 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz) and here (Highresaudio)

Helge Lien’s Badgers and Other Beings – A Scandinavian Trio to Watch

Last week I wrote about Triosence, who recorded their latest album in Norway, at Jan Erik Kongshaug’s legendary Rainbow Studios. The album below is recorded at the same studio, however, unlike the German trio above, they didn’t have a long trip to get there, as they are from Norway.

Helge Lien, before getting relatively well-known with his own trio, was playing with singers like Silje Neergard.

Helge Lien Trio Badgers And Other Beings Ozella Music 2014

Since 2008 the Helge Lien Trio (with Frode Berg on bass and Per Oddvar Johansen on drums) has released three albums, approximately every three years, Hello Troll (2008), Natsukashii (2011), and Badgers and Other Beings in 2014, all on the excellent Ozella Music label (see also my review of Edgar Knecht from the same label). For the audiophiles among my readers, all are available as high-res downloads and worth it. Note that this is the first time Johansen joins the trio, replacing Knut Aalefjær (who get’s a dedication in the song Knut).

Badgers and Other Beings

I could have chosen to review here any of the three, when I checked my iTunes ratings, all have the same mix of four star tracks with 3-4 five stars on each, and I wouldn’t want to miss any of them in my collection. So let me just take the latest release, which has been in pretty heavy on my system since I bought it just after it came out.

All tracks on this album, as usual with Lien, are his originals, no standards here. Already the starter track is very beautiful, Mor (apparently meaning mother in Norvegian).

The example above shows everything I like about this album, beautiful, complex melodies, and an interaction between the musicians that shows that they’ve been together for a long time and can follow each other blindly, and this in spite of the fact that Johansen is a new addition to the trio.

The following Joe is more uptempo, but keeps the same mood, and is another one of my five star tracks. My other two favorites are The New Black and the final track, Badgers Lullaby, where Johanssen on drums gets featured more prominently, and where time truly stands still, while fully drawing you into this very particular Nordic world.

My rating: 4 stars (but pretty borderline to five, I’m still hesitating whether I should start giving 4.5 stars at some point).

You can download it here (Highresaudio.com) and here (Qobuz) in 24/192 resolution, and at Bandcamp you’ll get a cheaper regular CD resolution download and you can even purchase a limited edition vinyl edition.