Anke Helfrich Trio: Better Times Ahead (2006)
Anke Helfrich has been through what presumably must be the usual channels to get where she is right now, meaning that she's studied with some key figures in the music, and the results of that study are here in abundance. As such, the usual terms apply here much as they do with nearly every example of this modern mainstream thing. The music is urbane, harmonically sophisticated, faultlessly articulated, and almost entirely free of the quirks that would make this disc stand out from the crowd.
That said, there are exceptions to the rule, not the least of them being the nearly two-minute "Miniatur: An-Ma-De," which finds Helfrich and drummer Dejan Terzic engaged in a free duo in which both musicians prove themselves equal to the very different demands of free playing. The brevity of the piece, however, creates the impression of a track tacked on, despite the fact that it occurs in the middle of the programme; furthermore, that same issue also makes the effort, with its faded ending, sound as if it was treated in such a way so as not to alienate the audience for which the music is otherwise intended.
There are a couple of Thelonious Monk compositions here, and the fact that Helfrich gets as close to a Monkian spirit as anyone, particularly on her solo reading of "Ask Me Now," is to her credit.
Roy Hargrove is featured on four tracks, including Monk's "I Mean You," and with every note he plays, he again shows that his conception is in its way every bit as individual as Blue Mitchell's. Helfrich also gets to show off some of her credentials as an accompanist of no little individuality, and the resulting music raises a smile.
Track Listing: Movin' In; My Ship; Der Turm; Thanks For Being There; Better Times Ahead; I Mean You; Minatur: An-Ma-De; Trust & Faith; Ask Me Now.
Personnel: Anke Helfrich: piano; Martin Gjakanovski: bass; Dejan Terzic: drums; Roy Hargrove: trumpet, flugelhorn (3,4,6).