CD Review: Blissful Ignorance – Meadow

CD Review: Blissful Ignorance – Meadow
(Edition Records, Review by Tom Gray)

Don’t be fooled by the cover. The moody black and white photograph of the three gentlemen who comprise this group (saxophonist Tore Brunborg, pianist John Taylor and drummer Thomas Strønen) may suggest Nordic introspection, but this is an album filled with music that is also frequently joyous and infused with a palpable sense of groove.

The strength of the compositions here (which are mainly contributed by Brunborg) is immediately apparent. On pieces such as ‘Blissful Ignorance’ and ‘Will’, gently lilting ostinatos underpin themes constructed from relatively simple folky melodic fragments, but which then surprise with a series of unconventional harmonic sidesteps.

The material comes to life in the hands of these masterful yet utterly selfless musicians. Brunborg most obviously evokes Jan Garbarek with his beguiling tone and serpentine phrasing, though his playing occasionally hints at something more rugged – I heard nods towards John Surman at a few points. Taylor pares down his usually rich harmonic vocabulary here, wisely keeping his voicings light and allowing the compositions to breathe. He also adds a percussive bite with his left hand, while his improvised lines dazzle as ever. People familiar with Strønen’s work in the group Food will know that he can truly make a drum kit sing, an ability which is showcased perfectly on ‘Reven’. This piece should be essential listening for anyone looking for a masterclass in group empathy and how to use space (as, in fact, should the whole album).

Signing this fine trio was a shrewd move for Edition Records, which now has another instant classic in its catalogue to go alongside Mark Lockheart’s ‘In Deep’ and Phronesis’s ‘Alive’.

The next scheduled UK appearances by Meadow are in August – they play the Glasgow and Brecon jazz festivals. A London date at the Forge Venue is confirmed for October 19th.

Blissful Ignorance was released in the UK on 31st January

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