Album reviews

Johan Lindvall Trio – ‘This is Not About You’

Johan Lindvall Trio – This is Not About You
(Jazzland Recordings. Album review by Rob Mallows)

This album by a Norwegian trio new to me came with one of the most florid and cryptic press releases I’ve read in a while: “What does it really mean to dream of jazz?” Admittedly, that question might reflect some choices made in translating from Norwegian into English, but I was intrigued enough to want to click play straight away.

The Johan Lindvall Trio is, on the face of it, a standard jazz trio format – Johan Lindvall on piano, Adrian Myhr on double bass, and Andreas Skår Winther on drums. But the title of track one – Imagine Something Different – is very aptly named. Right from the off, the listener is put on guard: jumpy piano improvisation, elements of discordance, no real melodic direction. It’s like the trio is saying to the listener: don’t get comfortable.

I wasn’t.

On Give Up, a more obvious tunefulness is evident that reassures, but still surprises. From the title to the mix to the tunes, it’s clear this album is all about Lindvall’s piano, and his playing is pretty distinctive, switching from the melodic to moments of rhythmic rough-and-tumble as notes rush out of the speakers. But while it’s a wild ride at times, the melody at the heart of this tune is strong.

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Listen begins with Winther’s scratchy brush and stick work, making it sound like a couple of hamsters have been given free range to crawl over his kit, while Lindvall’s playing suggests he’s not really thought about was he’s going to play. One minute of very odd, fraught jazz.

Last Time continues in this slightly uneven, chaotic way, but the trio returns to firmer ground on Gettin Out, which has plenty of groove and a clean, unadorned melody which works well. Rapt, with its snappy, tappy main riff, kept me so. I could both hear where this tune was going, yet be surprised too. It’s a cover of a track by Korean-America songstress Karen O and it stands out as the most accessible track on the album, but every bit as obtuse and difficult to grasp as the original.

It’s always a good test with instrumental albums to understand what the title track tells the listener about the rest of the album. This Is Not About You is, on the face of it, a piano trio ballad – great, cohesive playing by all three musicians, a listenable melody, nice phrasing. It is both nostalgic about the jazz trio tradition in which it sits, but also is a track that tells you Lindvall and his band mates aren’t content to just be constrained by what’s gone before.

The last track – Break – is recorded live (at what sounds like a very small club) and begins with an infectious left-hand motif over which Myhr navigates and Lindvall plucks his piano strings; as Winther comes in, these simple ideas grow in intensity and a super tune develops, driven by a piano riff which evolves to great effect.

An interesting album which has heart and a story to tell, This Is Not About You is sufficiently off-kilter to require your full attention.

LINK: This is not About You at Presto Music

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