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Espen Berg: Acres of Blue

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Acres of Blue is the second volume of solo piano albums by Norwegian pianist Espen Berg, an organic extension of the most beautiful, Noctilucent (Atterklang, 2012). This time Berg chose to present a mixture of original compositions, improvised pieces, and arrangements of pieces that reference the breadth of his musical vocabulary and his formative influences—romantic compositions of Frédéric Chopin, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Nordic pianists-composers as Esbjorn Svensson, Helge Lien and obviously, Keith Jarrett.

All the compositions are rooted in a common key, D flat, which its fundamental tonality symbolizes for Berg the colors of blue and purple landscapes in music, reflecting the beloved Nordic natural scenery, often wrapped in soft variations of the color blue. The recording captures the great, bright acoustics of the concert hall at RDAM in Copenhagen, where Berg worked over two intense days in May 2013.

The album begins and ends with two contemplative improvisations, "Continuation" and "Inevitable" that mark the expansion of his first piano solo project and the new, diverse musical roads of the second project. Both pieces emphasize his highly personal aesthetic—assured and articulate abstraction, modest in its virtuous technique, rich and profound in its breadth of sound and emotionally intense even in its most spare segments. Berg avoids expansive, dramatic flights on the piano and opts for a more implicit manner of playing, exposing his elegant, captivating musical structures with patience, suspense, and irony.

Berg dedicates a touching, melancholic improvised piece to Chopin's, "Frédéric," assimilating and playing with elements from his era, and beautifully expands Beethoven's theme from the popular "Til Eline" as a modern jazz theme. He turns Sting's heartbreaking ballad "Hounds of Winter" (from Mercury Falling, 1995) to a concise, lyrical description of a winter time state of mind. He submits wisely Miles Davis's classic "Nardis," often associated with Bill Evans, to his own gentle and playful tonality. The most remarkable pieces are the originals, "Sprites of Time," the title piece and "Bokeh," all are evocative, nuanced stories of dreamy, almost super natural landscapes.

Another great work of a true master of the piano.

Track Listing: Continuation; Frédéric; Brooklyn; Hounds of Winter; Five Mile Shoes; Til Eline; Sprites of Time; Acres of Blue; Nardis; Bokeh; Inevitable.

Personnel: Espen Berg: piano.

Title: Acres of Blue | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Atterklang

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