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Kasper Staub: Slow Music for Fast Times

Jakob Baekgaard By

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Pianist Kasper Staub entered the Danish jazz scene with his trio back in 2012 when he released the album / . The music was just as sparse as the title and introduced a fragile, airy sound, with simple melancholy melodies that were quite unlike anything on the Danish jazz scene at that time. Since then, Staub and the trio have perfected their sound, releasing the equally recommendable Havnepladen (2014). Strøg from 2017 is the latest addition to the trio's discography and is connected to another release from Staub, his solo piano record from 2016. Both these records show a dedicated artist who works with different aspects of the same aesthetic that favors a quiet presence in the music.

Kasper Staub Trio
Strøg
Jaeger Community Music
2017

In Danish Strøg means stroke and the title could be understood both as the soothing gesture of calming someone or as a description of an aesthetic described in pianist Bill Evans' famous liner notes for Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. In his text, he compared the approach to composition with the Japanese art of creating images with uninterrupted strokes, simple and yet very profound. The same thing goes with the music on Strøg and it could not be illustrated more aptly than the opening track "Zoom Out," which is in fact the soundcheck that was accidentally recorded and formed a perfect spontaneous painting.

In the same way, bassist Jens Mikkel Madsen sounds like he is tuning up on the title track, but slowly a melody emerges out of the mist. Breathing chords, echoed by the crawling lines of Madsen's bass and Anders Vestergaard's rustling drums.

For those who have heard the previous records, there is nothing new under the sun, but this is exactly what is so recommendable about this trio. It exists in its own world outside tiresome commercial expectations of sixty transformations in a minute. Instead, each record is a meticulously crafted universe of light melodies heavy with meaning. This is music that feels precious, each melody delivered like a bird flying out of a closed hand.

The rubato ballads and elegiac moods reference everything from Jan Johansson to Radiohead and Bach and yet the trio has its own unmistakably sound. It is a universe worth revisiting and a rare expression of uncompromising artistic integrity. Twelve drops of pure poetry.

Kasper Staub
Aisle Arch Attic
Jaeger Community Music / Les Disques de L'Accalmie
2016

Staub's solo work is just as uncompromising in its minimalistic beauty as the work of his trio. In fact, there is a direct link between Strøg and Aisle Arch Attic. It is the composition "Lentando" that shows up on the trio album simply as "Lent," transformed like a butterfly with new wings. The difference between the two compositions also describes the nuances in aesthetic. Whereas the trio favors slowness in movement, Staub on his own works even more with slowness in space.

His trio, being a true interactive unit with each voice contributing to the whole, unfolds complexity through simplicity, but alone at the piano Staub seems to be even more radical in his way of boiling each melody down to its essence while letting the notes linger in space. In his notes to the vinyl version of the album, released in collaboration between Jaeger Community Music and the French label Les Discques de L'Accalmie, Simon Raymonde points out the connection with the French impressionists: Satie, Ravel and Debussy, but there is also a more recent influence that comes to mind. The echoing, ambient chords of the piano recall the way Harold Budd would approach a solo piano record.

Staub plays the piano like a landscape unfolding. Little narratives played on a piano that feels like it has lived a whole life and now stops while looking across the horizon. Both the trio and solo record from Staub encourage reflection and presence. It is much needed slow music for fast times.

Tracks and Personnel

Strøg

Tracks: Zoom Out; Aero; Felt; Wave Train; Dendrite; Silk Street; Zoom In; An Ocean from Here; Lent; II III I; Strøg; Ding.

Personnel: Kasper Staub: piano; Jens Mikkel Madsen: bass; Anders Vestergaard: drums.

Aisle Arch Attic

Tracks: Fever Dream; Arch; Attic; Aisle; Realthought; Quiver; Grey; Sometimes; Lentando; Fever Dream Juno Rework (vinyl version bonus track); Timebend (vinyl version bonus track).

Personnel: Kasper Staub: piano.

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