Excess Luggage: Hand Luggage Only (2011)
The program on Hand Luggage Only consists primarily of original tunes, most of them penned by Nickelsen. A couple of these ("Fast Swing," "Corrupted Minor"), like the aforementioned "Annoying You," have terse, almost crepuscular, melodies that nevertheless provide plenty of rhythmic and harmonic jumping-off-points for brilliant solos by Storaas and Nickelsen. "Kunming" is a dark, minor-key piece in 7/4 that comes closer to fusion than anything else on the CD. Storaas' "Jimmy's Thai Kitchen," by contrast, is a friendly blues based on the old chestnut "It Had To Be You." The set's lone standard"If I Should Lose You"is taken at a brisk walk, providing tons of space for extended solos by all. Though fast tempos and acrobatic improvisations are the trio's bread-and-butter, they shift gears quite effectively throughout Hand Luggage Only. "After All," is an atmospheric ballad with a lovely solo piano introduction and fine brushwork. "Laat" starts soft and slow, and is slowly urged to a simmering medium tempo by Johansen's splashy drumming. Here, the interplay between piano and organ is particularly sublime, with Nickelsen's thick, ropy lines curling around Storaas' piano like ancient vines on an old building.
Despiteor perhaps because ofits odd instrumentation, Hand Luggage Only is one of those rare CDs that surprises and delights with unexpected pleasures. The playing is first rate, the compositions are strong, and the whole concept just works. There's something for every taste here, yet there's no sense of artistic compromise. This speaks volumes for the players involved, in particular, and for the Norwegian jazz scene in general.
Track Listing: Annoying You; Jimmy's Thai Kitchen; Corrupted Mirror; After All; Fast Swing; Kunming; If I Should Lose You; Laat.
Personnel: Vigleik Storaas: acoustic piano; Steinar Nickelsen: organ; Hakon Mjaset Johansen: drums.
Record Label: Parallell