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A World of Piano Trios II

Mark Sullivan By

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Several parts of the world heard from in this installment: Sweden, Norway, France, and the United States.

Esbjorn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.)
e.s.t. live in Gothenburg
ACT Music
2019

Before Swedish jazz pianist Esbjorn Svensson's untimely death in 2008, e.s.t. was a sensation. They brought an eclecticism and rock-like energy to piano trio music that continues to reverberate today in the music of groups like GoGo Penguin. This 2001 concert recording comes from midway through their career, and time has not dimmed its luster.

Svensson was the star of the show, but the other members were major contributors to the band's sound. Bassist Dan Berglund was a swinging player in the traditional role, but he also used innovative electronics: "Good Morning Susie Soho" employed an envelope follower on his double bass solo, while "Dodge The Dodo" included both arco playing and arco plus distortion. Drummer Magnus Ostrom had a featured solo on "The Rube Thing."

Other highlights include the Thelonious Monk-like composition "Bowling" (a previously unreleased tune, sure to be a point of interest for the band's many fans), and "Dodge The Dodo"'s long solo piano section, including a distinctive mbira-like buzzing effect. It is surprising that such a fine live recording has taken so long to be discovered, but it is good to have it now.

Kjetil Muledid Trio
What You Thought Was Home
Rune Grammofon
2019

For their sophomore effort—following Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House (Rune Grammofon, 2017)—this Norwegian trio expands on their conversational group playing style and Kjetil Mulelid's rich compositions. The title tune opens the set, a dreamy, rubato voyage with drummer Andreas Skår Winther providing coloration with cymbals and brushes. "Folk Song" brings both a simple theme and elaborate improvisation into the mix, with the energetic trio interplay almost at odds with the folk feeling. It recalls pianist Keith Jarrett and other ECM piano trios.

Double bassist Bjørn Marius Hegge contributed "Bruremarsj (Wedding March)," which has rhythm and mood true to the title. Like everything this group plays, the march feel is present yet fluid. The same could be said of "Waltz For Ima:" perhaps not strict enough to dance to, but clearly a waltz—at least until it travels into freer territory towards the end. "Homecoming" ends the album in a contemplative mood, anchored by a lyrical double bass solo. A fitting end to a program rich in content: it feels full, despite the relatively short running time.

Marc Copland
And I Love Her
Illusions Mirage
2019

This trio was originally brought together as the late guitarist John Abercrombie's rhythm section, appearing with him on 39 Steps (ECM, 2013) and Up and Coming (ECM, 2017). Pianist Marc Copland, double bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron have continued working together as a trio since then. This album documents live performances in New York City.

It is a varied program, although not as contemporary as the title Beatles tune might suggest. It ranges from Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" to John Coltrane's version of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" to Cole Porter's "You Do Something To Me" (which closes the album). There are also two Copland originals including ("Might Have Been"), a Gress piece ("Figment"), a late John Abercombie composition ("Love Letter," for which Copland provided a title), and a group improvisation ("Mitzi & Jonny").

Carl Kennedy
American Lullaby
Jerujazz Records
2019

Carl Kennedy is a Chicago-based pianist/composer, joined by bassist Daniel Thatcher and drummer Andrew Green on this trio date. The program is all Kennedy originals, with a performance focus that emphasizes composition over improvisation (at least that is how it sounds). Opener "The Clock" maintains a calm, regular rhythm. Which does not prevent Green from playing an unusually elaborate drum part, or Thatcher from contributing a lyrical double bass solo. This is definitely a true trio, not pianist plus accompanists.

"Furniture Music" is constructed on top of a serpentine ostinato pattern, most of the time (not sure how the furniture enters into it). Thatcher is featured again with the arco bass theme that ends "Begin Again," and the piece also mixes a lyrical theme with a martial rhythm. The title tune ends the album with a rhapsodic rubato flow. A fitting close to a striking collection of music that makes its point elegantly and directly.

Jacky Terrasson
53
Blue Note Records
2019

German-born pianist Jacky Terrasson is very well traveled. He grew up in Paris, traveled to the U.S. to study at Berklee, then took up residence in New York, where he still lives. Many of his earliest albums were released by Blue Note Records (including his debut), and he returns to that storied label for this one. He also returns to the trio format—long his favorite playing setting—but rather than record with his usual trio he chose to use three different combinations (with some additional shuffling between them).

The album title comes from Terrasson's age when he conceived and recorded it. It is intended to be a personal statement, which is reflected in the almost entirely original program (the one exception is a brief Mozart arrangement). "The Call" opens the set with a tribute to pianist Ahmad Jamal, whose virtuosic mainstream jazz style can easily be heard as a Terrasson touchstone (as well as echoing Jamal's signature tune "Poinciana").

"Mirror" opens with driving drums, which resume after a gentle bridge, while "Jump!" features a drum solo (both courtesy of drummer Gregory Hutchinson). "Kiss Jannett For Me" is a sly reference to pianist Keith Jarrett, the composition making use of the ecstatic Gospel-influenced strain in Jarrett's music. "This Is Mine" is built on a big bass guitar ostinato from Géraud Portal. Two tracks have vocal augmentation to the trio: "Palindrome" has its theme doubled vocally (Terrasson is one of the singers), while "La part des anges -Reprise" includes recitation taken from Baudelaire's poetry. So it is a varied program, with Terrasson's piano firmly occupying center stage.

Tracks and Personnel

e.s.t. live in Gothenburg

Tracks: Dating; Somewhere Else Before; The Rube Thing; From Gagarin's Point Of View; The Wraith; Providence; Good Morning Susie Soho; The Chapel; Bowling; The Second Page; Dodge The Dodo.

Personnel: Esbjörn Svensson: piano; Dan Berglund: bass; Magnus Öström: drums.

What You Thought Was Home

Tracks: What You Thought Was Home; Folk Song; Bruremarsj (Wedding March); Tales; Far Away; A Cautionary Tale Against a Repetitive Life; Waltz for Ima; When Winter Turns into Spring; Homecoming.

Personnel: Kjetil André Mulelid: piano; Bjørn Marius Hegge: double bass; Andreas Skår Winther: drums.

And I Love Her

Tracks: Afro Blue; Cantaloupe Island; Figment; Might Have Been; Love Letter; Day and Night; And I Love Her; Mitzi & Jonny; You Do Something to Me.

Personnel: Marc Copland: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Joey Baron: drums.

American Lullaby

Tracks: The Clock; Furniture Music; Arcus; Osage Avenue; Children Of The Fountain; Begin Again; Mountain Child; American Lullaby.

Personnel: Carl Kennedy: piano, compositions; Daniel Thatcher: bass; Andrew Green: drums.

53

Tracks: The Call; Alma; Mirror; Jump!; Kiss Jannett For Me; Palindrome; La part des anges; Babyplum; What happens au 6ème...; My Lys; Lacrimosa -Mozart: Requiem in D minor; Nausica; This Is Mine; La part des anges -Reprise; Blues en Femmes Majeures; Resilience.

Personnel: Jacky Terrasson: piano, Korg Kronos keyboard (11), vocals (6); Ali Jackson: drums (1, 2, 5, 7, 13, 15); Gregory Hutchinson: drums (3, 4, 8, 9, 12); Lukmil Perez: drums (6, 10, 13, 14); Thomas Bramerie: bass (6, 10, 14); Géraud Portal: bass (1, 2, 5, 7, 13, 15, 16); Sylvain Romano: bass (3, 4 8, 9, 12, 13); Stéphane Menut: vocals (14); Philippe Gaillot: vocals (6).

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