Espen Eriksen Trio – Never Ending January
(Rune Grammofon RCD2173. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)
The steadfast appeal of the jazz piano trio format continues with this limpid jewel from Norway. Following two previous releases (You Had Me At Goodbye; What Took You So Long) and led melodiously by pianist Espen Eriksen – with colleagues Lars Tormod Jenset (bass) and Andreas Bye (drums) – Never Ending January appears to find its lofty inspiration in misty, enforested, fjordal panoramas. And whilst that Scandinavian impression may be somewhat clichéd in musical terms, this trio’s approach is, indeed, particularly elemental and spacial.
Comparisons with other Scandinavian pianists such as Tord Gustavsen and Esbjörn Svensson are inevitable in Eriksen’s considered, wistful compositions, which do also escalate to grander, more pressing sections – yet his memorable melodic lines, coupled with track lengths of relative brevity (eight pieces averaging 4.5 minutes), bring a refreshing succinctness to this music. Not that there’s any sense of being short-changed, as the passage of time seems to be perfectly calculated across each number – as in opener Grounded, whose charmingly childlike motif, introduced by Lars Tormod Jenset’s dulcet bass, is sparingly elaborated upon before a late crescendo; and similarly in the tumbling, undulating progress of Floating, with its hues of mid-Noughties e.s.t.
In the Mountains is redolent of Michele di Toro or Giovanni Guidi as Eriksen’s high piano sixths appear to look down on the gradual ascent, accentuated through Bye’s deliberate toms. And shuffling, Magnus Östrom-like snare and cymbals in Gravity carefully underpin the delicate piano-and-bass poise (again, with no need to elaborate beyond its four-minute duration, which begins to suggest skilled judgement). Brian is more filmic, and easily bordering on dramatic soundtrack, as it swells into the percussively hard-hitting territory of GoGo Penguin, whilst title track Never Ending January is contrastingly sombre, with sparse, dimly-lit Bachian overtones allowing space for affecting double bass and piano weight (amidst its melancholy… so, so beautiful).
Purposefully-grooving Cold Front adds the timbre of searing arco bass harmonics (without effects, the acoustic impact is notable), and this is altogether more propulsive in its direction before Hade closes the set with all the heart-aching, tuneful romanticism of Tord Gustavsen.
With its inflections of other, now-distinctive sound worlds, this may not be seen as groundbreaking piano trio material – but its clarity of thought, expression and balance mark it out as a highly listenable recording which runs deep with emotion and sublime musicality.
Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, musician and jazz writer who also reviews at his own site, ap-reviews.com