Album reviews

Maridalen – ‘Maridalen’

Maridalen – Maridalen
(Jazzland 377 935 6. Album review by Peter Bacon)

The wooden Maridalen church, a former mission house from the 1880s, lies in a valley north of Oslo and not far from the shores of Lake Maridal. Saxophonist Anders Hefre, trumpeter Jonas Kilmork Vemøy and double bassist Andreas Rødland Haga first chose it as a quiet place to rehearse together, but its ambience and acoustics clearly became a vital part of what developed into the band – and this album.

The first sounds are natural ones, bird calls and possibly the flow of water, or the blowing of wind in trees. The instruments are every bit as elemental when they enter in quiet conversation. There is a lot of fresh air in Maridalen, it seems, and the horn players channel much of it through their breath and timbre. Sometimes, so close are the instruments to the microphones, the tone of the trumpet or saxophone and the accompanying breath flowing through the brass sound like two separate sounds, perfectly in sync with each other.

And perfectly in sync between the horns too. For example, track four, Inga, finds Hefre and Vemøy in absolute accord on the stately head, with Haga giving a perfectly simple grounding by rocking back and forth between a pair of richly strummed notes.

According to the press release, the trio share “a common predilection for Swedish jazz (Jan Johansson, Bernt Rosengren and Lars Gullin), minimalist film music and French Impressionism”. The Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker quartet could easily be another reference point – there is in the Maridalen trio that same affection for melody and relatively unadorned harmony, with special attention to instrumental blend and interaction. It’s as if the horizontal and vertical elements of harmony – and the endless subtleties of rhythm, for that matter – have been stripped back to show their internal workings, like the clock with the face and numbers removed to reveal the far more interesting cogs and wheels within.

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There is the occasional bit of piano from Hefre (on Midt På Natten Et Sted – meaning ‘in the middle of the night somewhere’ – a repeated, jittering single note acting as a background to the improvisation) and he sometimes tongues a percussion element via the saxophone reed, while Vemoy sings his harmony at one point. Mostly, the trio is happy to let saxophone, trumpet and bass ring out and intertwine in what must surely be a magical space to have provided the source location for such a clearly distilled, quietly contained, intimate and exquisitely beautiful 42 minutes 38 seconds of music.

Maridalen is released today and is available as CD, LP or Download.  

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