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Oddgeir Berg: Before Dawn

Dan McClenaghan By

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The evolution of the piano trio has taken us from Art Tatum to Erroll Garner to Oscar Peterson to Bud Powell to Bill Evans—with Thelonious Monk in there veering off from Ellington and the stride tradition on his own separate branch. The newest piano trio offshoot is that of groups who add electronic embellishments to their sounds, either live or sprinkled on via post recording spicings—the Swedish group the Esbjorn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.) is perhaps the highest profile example of the electro-embellished approach.

The Oddgeir Berg Trio grafts a new shoot onto the branch that e.s.t sprouted, with their superb, partially plugged-in Before Dawn, featuring the leader's original compositions.

The modern piano trio with electronic effects approach of added effects and/or electric keyboard is becoming more common. The best of these trios are grounded in the tradition, using their techno additions judiciously. Subtlety works best. Before Dawn proves itself a fine example of how to keep it engaging, pushing the limits at times—in a good way.

The set opens with "Mermaid's Dance" on a sluggish bass line slipping into a lilting rhythm, the piano/bass/drum alignment in the foreground of synthesizer wash. The sound is one of ruminative melancholy, an atmosphere in which the group revels. The key is Geir's ability to keep the effects in check, to prevent them from overpowering the concept of the piano trio as the add their enhancements.

"Oldies" has a similar tranquility and sadness about it. More traditional and prettier than the opener, it's follow-up, "Here Comes The Toughest" goes into edgier and more urgent territory, while "Sprineren" sounds like a forest tale, full of shadows and sun dapplings, and perhaps fairies fluttering in and out of the range of peripheral vision. "A.C.M."dives deeper into the "effects and electronics" realm, moving away from the previously-mentioned subtlety mode, in a way that—paired with an overall deft sequencing of the album—creates a hard to pin down listenability effect that keeps the disc spinning from start to finish.

Before Dawn is a fine debut by the Oddgeir Berg Trio. It is a group to keep an close eye and both ears on.

Track Listing: Mermaid's Dance; Oldies; Here Comes The Toughest; Springeren; Waltzie; Slattesven; A.C.M.; Ganger; Slogro; Lullaby for S.O.; Postlude.

Personnel: Oddgeir Berg: piano, keys; Karl-Joakim Wisløff: doublebass; Klaus Robert Blomvik: drums.

Title: Before Dawn | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Ozella Music

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