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Meadow: Blissful Ignorance

John Kelman By

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It's been out in Norway since late 2009, on the relatively small Hecca Records label, but any recording with a trio this fine deserves to be out in the world in a bigger way, and so Britain's Edition Records—no longer an upstart company, with over 20 releases in the past 30 months—has picked up Blissful Ignorance, repackaged it, and given it broader international distribution. When he was in Ottawa, Canada, in the fall of 2010, British pianist John Taylor spoke of the relatively nascent Meadow with great affection, and for good reason. Blissful Ignorance is the second album in a year to feature a lineup of saxophonist/piano/drums with Norwegian reedman Tore Brunborg—the other was neoclassical improvising pianist, Ketil Bjornstad's sublime Remembrance (ECM, 2010)—but superficialities of context aside, they couldn't be more different.

Meadow's third member, Norwegian drummer Thomas Stronen, is no less capable of the kind of flexible time play that Remembrance's legendary Jon Christensen, has been, since essentially setting the ground rules for the approach in the 1970s on classic ECM recordings like guitarist/pianist Ralph Towner's Solstice (1975) and pianist Keith Jarrett's Belonging (1974). But unlike Christensen, whose recent physical problems have largely precluded him from greater physical strength on the kit, Strønen—co-founder of another Anglo/Norwegian collective, Food, responsible for the more electro-centric Quiet Inlet (ECM, 2010)—is just as capable of assertive time as he is textural nuance, lending Blissful Ignorance a quiet sense of power, especially on tracks like Brunborg's irregularly metered title track—which, as pliant as it is, could easily fit, reworked as a grooving piece of funk, on one of the saxophonist's other 2010 ECM dates, French drummer Manu Katche's Third Round.

If the legendary German label keeps coming up, it's because—in addition to Blissful Ignorance being recorded by one of the label's longtime technical associates, engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug, at Rainbow Studio in Oslo, where so many ECM recordings have been made—all three of its members have been associated with it at one time or another, including Taylor, who dates back to the 1970s and his tremendous Azimuth trio, with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and singer Norma Winstone. Meadow's combination of Brunborg's lyrical writing (six of Blissful's nine tracks are his) and playing, Taylor's vernacular (not strictly of the jazz tradition, but certainly speaking of it with great respect), and Strønen's ability to suggest time, even when he's not actually playing it, make Meadow the quintessential ECM group that isn't on ECM, with its predilection for timbral clarity and empathic interaction as reliant on what's not played as on what is.

Less inherent classicism than Bjørnstad's Remembrance makes Blissful Ignorance an easier fit in the jazz continuum, but both recordings share an economy and selflessness that are refreshingly distanced from those who feel it necessary to assert their personalities through overt virtuosity. Instead, the success of Meadow and Blissful Ignorance is predicated in its focus on the song, the sound, the melody and the collective.

Track Listing: Badger; Blissful Ignorance; Kirstis tårer; Tunn is; Meadow; Amentia; Will; Reven; Ritual.

Personnel: John Taylor: piano; Tore Brunborg: saxophones; Thomas Strønen: drums.

Title: Blissful Ignorance | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Edition Records

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