Tord Gustavsen’s The Other Side – Delightful

Tord Gustavsen

I’ve previously written about the rich Jazz scene in Scandinavia, and particularly about Tord Gustavsen, reviewing his album The Ground here.

Gustavsen’s trio has a very particular style, minimal, melodic, and fascinating.

So I was very excited when I saw that Gustavsen’s latest album was just released, and thanks to ECM finally allowing streaming, I could sample it immediately.

Tord Gustavsen Trio: The Other Side (ECM 2018)

Tord Gustavsen Trio: The Other Side (24/96) ECM 2018

I wasn’t a universal  fan of some of the albums Gustavsen released in the last years, but with his latest album, I’m fully back on board!

The first thing you notice is the cover art, while still in the typical ECM abstract art style, they’ve changed from the dark blue tones of most of the former albums to a bright orange. Does this mean the music is more orange as well?

Well, actually not. This is very typical Gustavsen style, very much reminding me of what I liked so much about The Ground.  Let’s take as an example urack 3 of the album, Re-Melt. It starts with a syncopated rhythm by Jarle Vespestad on drums, and Sigurd Hole on bass. Gustavsen joins a bit later, weaving a beautiful, subdued melody over the rhythm. None of the music on this album is ever over the top, but it will always be one thing: very atmospheric. It always just unfolds slowly, over time.

Recording quality, as usual on ECM, is very good, actually in this particular case it is again quite spectacular.

Check out this album. It may not be for everyone, but if you like this minimalist Nordics style, you really should not hold back!

My rating: 4 stars

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

 

Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack De Johnette – After The Fall – A Review

The Keith Jarrett Trio

Having Keith Jarrett in the sub-title of my blog, I obviously had to get excited.

Wow, a new recording of the legendary Keith Jarrett Trio?

Well, “new” is relative, we’re actually talking about a live recording from 1998 in New Jersey, that slept in some drawer for now about 20 years.

1998 wasn’t a bad time for Jarrett’s legendary combo, with Gary Peacock on bass and Jack De Johnette on drums. Standards in Norway, one of my favorite live albums ever, was recorded just a year later, so, musically, my expectations were high.

This was also an important moment for Jarrett himself, as he just recovered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which stopped him from playing for nearly two years in 1996-1998. In the liner notes, Jarrett calls this concert a “scary experiment”, as it was his first live appearance since the Italian solo concerts (that were also just recently released as A Multitude Of Angels, see my review here).

 

Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette – After The Fall (ECM 2018)

 

Keith Jarrett Gary Peacock Jack DeJohnette After The Fall ECM 2018 24 44

And to make it clear, musically, this album is all you could ask for. The tracks on average 8-9 min longs, which is very enjoyable, as the musicians really get to develop the material and interplay.

This is a “double album” (a term that feels a bit silly in the days of downloads and streaming, but in reality it means you get a total of 1h45 of music and pay about the price of two regular albums should you decide to purchase it, so still has some form of meaning).

To mention some individual songs, Scrapple from the Apple is a very groovy bop track. Old Folks is beautiful ballad. And we get standards like Autumn Leaves with very enjoyable solos (unfortunately, like in so many concerts, Jarrett cannot stop himself from “singing” along. If any digital company could ever invent the AI-driven Keith Jarrett/Glenn Gould humming filter, i’d be extremely grateful).

So, where is the but?

Well, very similar to his recently released solo album A Multitude Of Angels, this album wasn’t professionally recorded, but was basically using Jarretts own DAT (Digital Audio Tape recorder).

And as much as I didn’t mind the shoe-box sound created by this recording set-up for Angels, for a trio where you need to better capture the nuances and interplay of three instruments, I find the sound quality a bit off-putting (and this in spite of the fact that this was remastered at the legendary Rainbow Studios in Oslo).

So, in conclusion, as a hard-core Jarrett fan, this is a must have. If you don’t mind the poor sound quality, I can recommend it as well.

However, if you don’t yet own most of his catalogue, there are many other live albums that benefit from the outstanding sound quality that ECM normally is famous for, like Standards in Norway, or Live At Blue Note from 1994 (one of my 25 Essential Jazz Albums), that you may want to check out first.

My rating: 4 stars (1 star taken off for sound quality)

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

Michael Wollny Klangspuren (Live in Hamburg) – A Review

How did I miss this?

There is a live Wollny trio album out there and I only find out about it a year later. How is this possible? My bad.

Especially after I’ve attended his concert in Basel just some weeks after this album was released (see my concert review here).

But well, better late than never.

Michael Wollny Trio In Concert: Klangspuren – Live in Hamburg (ACT 2016)

I’m a big Wollny fan (thanks to an old friend from highschool who initially introduced me to him). See for example my reviews of his album Nachtfahrten, or my mention of one of his previous live albums in my 9 Outstanding Live Jazz albums. His album Weltentraum was also mentioned in my 25 Essential Jazz albums.

Michael Wollny Trio In Concert Klangspuren Live in Hamburg ACT 2016

 

 

 

This album is very close in spirit (and material) to the live concert I saw at Kaserne Basel in 2016. Given that it is to a large extend based on his Nocturne-style album Nachtfahrten, it has a lot of long, quiet, but intense passages. My favorite song is White Moon.

Wollny plays with his usual trio of Christian Weber and Eric Schaefer.

But don’t worry, the lion Wollny is occasionally let out of his cage for one of his more improvising elements.

Looking back at his recent studio albums, I rated Weltentraum a full 5 star, while Nachtfahrten was still nice, but only received a 4 star rating.

When we get to live albums, I´d suggest you get one of the Weltentraum live albums first, but this album is still very much worth having.

Wollny remains one of the most important Jazz pianists of our days.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz) and here.

FYI, If you prefer to buy it as a physical album you also get a collectors edition that includes a DVD.

Søren Bebe Trio: Home – A Review

We Get Requests

Just a quick intro here paraphrasing one of my favorite Oscar Peterson album titles: I get contacted quite regularly to review albums.

I usually check out what I receive when it sounds interesting, but so far I’ve never received anything for review that was musically interesting enough for me to write about.

Given that this is my personal blog and I don’t intend to make any money of this (as a matter of fact, this thing is even costing me a bit of money every year to maintain).

This nicely gives me the opportunity to write about only music I care about, one way or another.

Søren Bebe Trio

Søren reached out to me some weeks ago. He did it very smartly, with some namedropping, quoting that he’d recorded his latest album at the great Rainbow studios with the great Jan Erik Kongshaug. He really is an exceptional sound engineer, so my curiosity was piqued. Nicely enough, the album is available for streaming on Qobuz and TIDAL, so it was easy to check out (although he also provided me with a free download link, so full disclosure here)

I must admit I had never heard of him before, shame on me, but even if you care about the Jazz Piano Trio like me, it is really hard these days to keep track.

In a nutshell, Søren with his trio is based in Denmark, and plays with Kasper Tagel on bass and Anders Mogensen on drums.

 

Søren Bebe Trio – Home (2016 Out Here Music)

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So what do you get? Let me put it in the Amazon way: Customers who bought this also bought…. Basically, if you like Keith Jarrett´s trio, and the nordic trios in particular in the style of Tord Gustavsen, you need to check this out.

You get beautiful, dreamy ballads like Floating (that the cover picture really represents well), but you also get slightly more uptempo pieces like A Simple Song. It really always stays very Scandinavian (although I always thought Denmark was different to Sweden and Norway, but here you find a lot of commonalities).

Check out the long ballad Trieste as a very representative example:

And all of this, not surprisingly given the recording venue & personnel, is very well recorded.

My rating: 4 stars. Definitely worth checking out.

You can find it here (Bandcamp)

Tingvall Trio’s New Album Cirklar – A Review

Tingvall Trio

When I started this post, I was suprised to notice that I hadn’t written a single post on this trio yet. I kind of assumed I had. But my search function told me otherwise.

Martin Tingvall’s Hamburg, Germany-based piano trio is a pretty international affair. Tingvall himself is Swedish, his Bass player Omar Rodriguez Calvo is Cuban, only the drummer is German.

They have a pretty strong following in Germany, but start to get better known beyond the borders.

Let me open a parenthesis here: I’m still surprised that Jazz is a very regional affair. You’d think that in the days of the internet any artist can be heard and known everywhere. And especially in a niche area like Jazz people wouldn’t really care where an artist comes from. But then again, quite often I see artists available due to some weird label rights in Europe, but not in the US, or vice versa.

Probably it boils down to the fact that album sales really don’t matter that much any more these days, and concerts are the main way a Jazz artists gets to their audience these days. And concerts quite often remain a very local affair. Great artists like Triosence for example rarely venture out of their native Germany. Parenthesis closed.

Tingvalls albums in the past have been very consistent, weird-sounding (to non Swedish ears) Scandinavian names like Vägen, Vattensaga, or Norr, and also have followed a certain style.

Tingvall Trio: Cirklar (Skip Records 2017)

 

Tingvall Trio Cirklar 24/96 2017 Skip Records

The latest album keeps this consistency. A weird name (that the booklet doesn´t bother explaining), and a very Tingvall-like Scandinavian-inspired jazz.

If you´ve followed my blog for a bit you know which kind of style I like in piano trio. Basically either the Oscar-Peterson swinging and grooving style, or the more melodic approach.

Tingvall clearly is the latter. They do groove up to a point in the faster tracks, but the real beauty is revealed in the slow tracks, that evolve into always interesting melodic and harmonic developments.

Track 4, Black Molnen is a perfect example of this, the type of ballad I just love.

 

Some may ask: but where is the Jazz in that? And I agree, this music is probably borderline in that respect. But to me, the melodic and harmonic beauty is just what I’m looking for.

As mentioned above, faster tracks on this album don´t always work for me. Track 5, Skansk Blues, is too much of a regular blues to be attractive. Blues obviously live from simplicity, but here the recipe just gets a bit too repetitive.

The title track, another ballad, then again gives me exactly what I want from Tingvall. If you like this track, buy the album.

That’s not to say that I only like the slow tracks on this album. Tidlös for example is a very groove uptempo track that has just the right amount of creativity. And Bumerang (See clip above) is quite well done, too.

Finally, Elis Visar really gives you the feeling of an open Nordic landscape.
Overall, really worth checking out.

 My rating: 4 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)

My Top 5 Jazz Albums of 2016

My Top 5 Jazz Albums of 2016

Following my Top 5 Classical albums of 2016, here’s my take on Jazz this year.

2016 was tricky with regards to Jazz albums. Actually, usually I build these top 5 lists simply from my 5 star reviews. The thing is, in 2016 I only had one single 5 star Jazz album, GoGoPenguin’s latest release. All others are “only” 4 stars, but still I can wholeheartedly recommend all of them!

 

Brad Mehldau Trio: Blues And Ballads

Brad Mehldau Trio Blues and Ballads 24 88 Nonesuch 2016

I mentioned it before, I’m not always a fan of Brad Mehldau.

I have The Art Of The Trio vol. 3 in my 25 essential Jazz albums and find it to be a true gem of piano jazz, but run away from many of his more recent releases (YMMV).

This one again is really to my taste, he goes back to his roots, and does it well!

See my initial review here.

GoGoPenguin – ManMade Object

GoGo Penguin Man Made Object 24/44 Blue Note 2016

As mentioned above, the only 5 star album in this list. As you can see in my initial review, this is probably the true successor to Esbjörn Svenssons trio, bringing the Jazz trio into the age of Electronica.

Keith Jarrett – A Multitude of Angels

Keith Jarrett A Multitude Of Angels Modena Ferrara Torino Genova Solo Concerts ECM 2016

A new Keith Jarrett solo album is always an event, even if in this case we’re talking about previously unreleased material from 20 years ago. As you can see in my recent review, I really like it.

Paolo Fresu Richard Galliano Jan Lundgren: Mare Nostrum II

Paolo Fresu Richard Galliano Jan Lundgren Mare Nostrum II (24/88) ACT Music

Check out my review here. Essentially, if you like the accordion, get this. If you don’t like the accordion, at least check it out. It is worth it.

 

Thierry Maillard – Il Canto Delle Montagne

Thierry Maillard Andre Ceccarelli Dominique di Piazza Il Canto Delle Montagne 24/88 2016 Ilona Records

See my review here, beautiful trio jazz from France.

Your turn now.

As you can see, I was struggling  a bit to find truly oustanding Jazz albums this year. I’m sure there’s stuff I must have missed. Please do point me to albums that I may not have seen or heard that you’d recommend in 2016!

 

You can find the albums here:

Brad Mehldau:  here (Qobuz) and here (Nonesuch’s own online store)

Keith Jarrett: here (Qobuz) or here (Amazon)

Paolo Fresu et al:here (Qobuz)

Thierry Maillard: here (Qobuz)