Whatever else one thinks of Swedish pianist Per Henrik Wallin, one thing must be concededhe has assuredly developed a style of his own, which is quite evident on this album recorded by his trio nearly two decades ago. Little wonder that he has been described in the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD as "a European original."
Stylistically, Wallin is a modernist who hasn't forsaken the roots of jazz, and there are echoes in his playing of everyone from Art Tatum, Earl Hines and Bud Powell to Erroll Garner, Lennie Tristano, Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. His compositions (he wrote everything here except "Ungmön på Käringön," by Kai Gullmar), even though more interesting than indelible, are consistently melodic and seldom stray beyond the bounds of accepted musical standards. In other words, Wallin's music may be au courant but is by no means the sort of "free jazz" that one would associate with, say, Cecil Taylor, Andrew Hill, Horace Tapscott or others in that camp. His solos are well-structured yet spiced with unexpected twists and turns that nourish one's awareness.
Where Is Spring was originally released as an LP, and so the CD includes an alternate version of "Winter Rhapsody" and two other previously unreleased songs, "Upright 4 PM" and "PH's Ramble," to increase the playing time to a generous 70:28. On each number, Wallin is ably accompanied by bassist Torbjörn Hultcrantz and drummer Leif Wennerström. In a strange series of episodes that followed this recording, Wennerström was attacked and severely beaten by unknown assailants in 1988, an experience that effectively ended his career; Wallin suffered a crippling accident, also in '88, that almost did the same to his; and Hultcrantz died from cancer in '94. This album measures the trio at the peak of its powers.
Wallin is never less than absorbing, his companions never less than reliable. Easily recommended to those who appreciate jazz that is decorous yet unpredictable.