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)

4038952000706_600

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.

Edgar Knecht – Dance On Deep Waters – Transforming  Traditional Songs into Jazz

To me, Jazz Piano Trio is just an outstanding art form, as already discussed on my previous post on Keith Jarrett’s’ Standards vol. 2.

Actually, Standards fits nicely into a number of trios/albums that have shaped and influenced this particular art form. You could start this lineage with Bill Evans first trio, then move on to Keith Jarrett’s Standards trio, and somehow the third level of evolution came with the late Esbjörn Svensson and his trio. He clearly innovated the trio on many fronts.

Many of today’s piano trios would be unthinkable without EST. And we are very lucky that this art form is not only still alive, but thriving.

About 18 month ago I started a thread on another forum on that topic, called “Are we living in the Golden Age of the Jazz Piano trio?“. This thread has now answered the question I was asking with more than 300 posts today and has become an amazing (if unsorted) list documenting how much is happening around us right now!

Edgar Knecht

I want to start writing about some of the artists I mentioned or discovered on this thread. Let me kick this off with my most recent purchase, the 2013 album Dance On Deep Waters from the German Edgar Knecht, on Ozella Music. I actually start with a tricky example, this trio is actually a quartet as it includes a percussionist. But well, it is close enough.

Edgar Knecht Dance On Deep Waters Ozella Music 2013

As you can see from the thread, I was actually introduced to this artists (and many other discoveries) by the forum member Elvergunn, who seems to be even more obsessed than me in finding new artists.

(Little side note: The internet is really such a great place for music, you can exchange with music lovers in the entire world, you find stuff that you would have never found in your local record store, and you can all download it in minutes to your computer thanks to the rapidly multiplying specialized online shops, but let’s close the parenthesis here).

Edgar Knecht in my mind is all about melodies and creating a very particular atmosphere. He takes simple music, from German folk songs to even Brahms famous Lullaby “Wiegenlied” and transforms it into something very special. The only little issue I have with this album is that sometimes you’d like a little bit more diversity in terms of approach and style. But I suppose you can’t have it all.

That said, I find this album very enjoyable and keep going back to it quite regularly right now.
My rating: 4 stars

You can get it here as download and here as  CD.