Posted on Jul 12th 2012 01:38 am
ESPEN ERIKSEN TRIO
What Took You So Long
Rune Grammofon 2012
10 Tracks. 42mins21secs
Espen Eriksen Trio’s debut, You Had Me At Goodbye, published two years ago on Rune Grammofon, was a thing of great beauty, its lush piano-led jazz, fluid and melodic, developed over the course of the whole record in a variety of delicate hues. On their second opus, What Took You So Long, the Scandinavian trio pick up where they left off two years ago with eight new compositions and two somewhat unexpected cover versions.
Led by Norwegian pianist Espen Eriksen, who has played with a number of high profile Scandinavian musicians (Mats Eilertsen, Thomas Strønen, Christina Bjordal) before assembling his own formation, the trio also counts in its ranks Danish-born bass player Lars Tormod Jenset, now a Norway resident, and Norwegian drummer Andreas Bye, a former member of Bugge Wesseltoft’s New Conception Of Jazz notably. If the trio’s music owes much to jazz, it also finds some roots in popular music, something highlighted here as they cover both Tina Turner’s We Don’t Need Another Hero and Barry Manilow’s Could It Be Magic. These may sound incongruous additions to the trio’s repertoire, yet they reinterpret both songs on their own terms. In both cases, the melodies are still perfectly recognisable, but subtle flourishes manage to both expand on the original themes and soften their sharper edges. Caught by surprise, listeners are likely to wonder for a moment whether the familiar melodies they can hear are not simple fits of their imagination.
Like on You Had Me At Goodbye, Eriksen’s piano leads the way from start to finish and defines much of the overall tone of the record, but the partnership of Jenset and Bye provides Eriksen with just the right amount of support, without overpowering him or leaving him stranded at any point. This is apparent right from the wonderful opening piece, All Good Things where, following a solo piano sequence, Jenset shadows Eriksen until Bye steps in, at which point Eriksen pushes ahead as the other two weave a tight rhythmic section behind him. This is repeated throughout the album at various levels of intensity, at times appearing so delicate and light that it almost feels as if the slightest breeze could threaten the integrity of the ensemble (Third Stop, Fall, We Don’t Need Another Hero, Passing By), at others feeling more robust and sturdy (On The Sea, Dusk Of Dawn, Komeda). All the way through though, the focus remains firmly set on Eriksen’s incredibly fluid and airy melodies, at once restrained and controlled, yet free and joyful.
The album however closes on a slightly more subdued note with Oslo, a piece composed in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Norwegian capital a year ago and the mass killing which followed. In the space of just over three minutes, Eriksen, alone, conjures melancholy and hope in one of his most touching pieces to date and bring this rather superb second album to a fitting end.