Karen Bach Trio: Secret Rooms (2010)
One of the joys of following a trio throughout many years of musical communication is the pleasure of hearing a distinctive sound emerge from intense work with form and content. Pianist Karen Bach's third album with her trio, Secret Rooms, is a work of distinction from three talented musicians who have worked hard to achieve their own sound, and the album represents the refinement of an aesthetic that has been developing over a long time.
Back in 2006, the trio released its debut, Samtale (TBC DigiVision), which introduced the Nordic sound that has been part of the trio's aesthetic ever since. Beautiful melodies and tight interplay were present from the beginning, but what was missing was a willingness to take chances and push the music over the edge. Flash Forward and Back (TBC DigiVision, 2007) became a new chapter in the trio's development. With that release, pianist Bach moved into more dangerous and unpredictable areas, exploring structures of lyrical beauty as well as inherent chaos.
Secret Rooms finds the trio at the apex of musical communication. Bach's compositions still have the trademark of Nordic melancholy, bringing in inspiration from classical composers like Nordahl Grieg as well as Bill Evans, but they also have a modern flavor, where the repetitive structures of post-rock open up the possibilities of improvisational surprises.
The opening "Untitled" finds Bach doing a dramatic romantic introduction on the piano, before the tune morphs into a post-rock groove, reminiscent of Tortoise, where Erik Olevik's electric bass patterns are complemented by abstract Fender Rhodes splashes.
"November" is a stellar ballad, as drummer Erik Laustsen makes his brushes whisper with elegant lightness, while Bach explores the emotional spectrum of the piano, going from ecstatic runs on the tangents to understated fragile chords. "Staircase Music," on the other hand, sees Laustsen moving into bossa nova territory, while Bach conjures a melancholy mood and Olevik stretches the tones of his bass.
Secret Rooms is a strong effort from a group which has found their own take on the Nordic sound. There's room for improvisational wildness, tantalizing melodies and quiet meditation. Here's a record that shouldn't be a secret.
Track Listing: Untitled; Ping Pong Music; Just Before It Gets Dark; November; Secret Rooms; 1973; Psalme; Staircase Music; Remind Me.
Personnel: Karen Bach: piano, Fender Rhodes; Erik Olevik: upright bass, electric bass; Erik Laustsen: drums.
Record Label: Blue Kite Productions
Style: Modern Jazz