Any album recorded during the lockdown of 2020 will doubtless be scrutinised for cryptic references. As such, End Of Summer as a title might hint at something deeper (or darker) than mere seasonal flux. But amidst so much global turmoil, the Espen Eriksen Trio has held its nerve and created another poignant opus. Tranquility at the centre of chaos.
As a Nordic pianist with a keen awareness of folk ballads and lullabies, Eriksen brings an innocent guile to his craft. Supremely skilled at the keyboard, his philosophy is certainly based on the 'less is more' approach. Thus he offers clear phrasing and charming melodies, tightly drawn into sketches which speak personal volumes, then peacefully close.
The trio's previous outing was a highly sensorial work with saxophonist Andy Sheppard, but here they revisit the enriched and intensified style of their earlier Never Ending January (Rune Grammofon, 2015). Eriksen's art has rarely been about astonishing the listener with unexpected twists. His musical blueprint is to quietly enthrall, to capture the halcyon imagery of his thoughts. End Of Summer opens with "Where The River Runs," a light-fingered and lyrical piece whose lead melody is echoed in octave jumps. "Back To Base" has elegiac bass bowings and quietly busy percussion, then "Dancing Demons" takes a deeply focussed study into a sweep of controlled energy. Here we really sense the unit functioning as one entity, with one higher purpose.
The bluesy title track adds loping bass lines and a hint of bossa in the percussion. It also highlights Eriksen's subtle use of a noirish suspense which pops up in many of his numbers, rather like those moments in a Bergman movie when shadows dance across walls or faces. Next up, the cadences on "Transparent Darkness" find Eriksen lingering and reflecting; maybe even lamenting the lost lives of 2020's pandemic.
"A Long Way From Home" uses deft martial snares to propel its yearning lilt, while "Reminiscence" is also aptly titled, a track which tumbles sweetly in its own nostalgia... for what? A lost friendship or love affair, perhaps? Or possibly the life we took for granted before a global virus changed everything.
Their first record as an actual trio for five years, End Of Summer marks a new and optimistic season for Eriksen's band. Informed by the moods and emotions of its circumstances, this is an exemplary album.
Where The River Runs; Back To Base; Dancing Demons; End Of Summer; Transparent Darkness; A Long Way From
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