Anders Persson: Lonely Fungus (2004)

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Anders Persson: Lonely Fungus
Another superb piano trio, this one led by Swedish virtuoso Anders Persson, whose main challenge lies in the fact that there are so many others at or close to its level. Nowadays, playing impeccably isn't nearly enough to make an audience sit up and take notice; there must be a collective persona, some indefinable yet indispensable quality that sets a group apart from its peers and makes it special. While it would be unsporting to compare Persson and his colleagues with trios led by Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, McCoy Tyner, Erroll Garner and the like, the principle is the same—one must find something in the music that elicits a responsive chord and makes it an emotional as well as a cerebral experience. Even though Persson, bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Terje Sundby are giving the music everything they have, much of what they have to say warranted my respect but not my devotion.

Mind you, that is an entirely subjective response, as there is nothing censorious that one can say about Persson, Danielsson or Sundby, each of whom is an outstanding player in his own right. Perhaps some of my indifference has to do with the choice of music, as half a dozen of the album's nine songs are originals—four by Persson, two by Sundby—and none of them is, in my opinion, better than a notch above ordinary. Rounding out the session are Billy Strayhorn's poignant "Lush Life," Sammy Cahn/Jimmy van Heusen's "The Second Time Around," and a traditional Swedish folk melody, "Beneath the Firmament of the Sky," arranged by Persson. Persson plays marvelously on "The Second Time Around," whereas I found his singular interpretation of "Lush Life" interesting but on the whole less persuasive.

Among the originals, Persson's sunny Latin charmer "Choro Para 'El Bife'" is clearly the top dog, while Sundby's "De Odievar" sounds much like one of Vince Guaraldi's upbeat compositions for the Charlie Brown TV specials. Persson unveils a passionate side on "Firmament," laying bare its dark and moody temperament in a series of sepulchral chords and phrases that close the album on a grave but impressive note.

Make no mistake, this is a superlative trio, but the competition is formidable, and without name recognition or a readily identifiable "voice" it is unlikely to gain much headway outside Sweden and other parts of Scandinavia.

Track Listing: Lonely Fungus; Lush Life; Torrent; The Second Time Around; De Odievaar; Mamelodi; Choro Para "El Bife"; Chez Paul; Beneath the Firmament of the Sky (51:43.

Personnel: Anders Persson, piano; Palle Danielsson, bass; Terje Sundby, drums.

Record Label: Touch Music

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

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