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Simon Toldam Trio: Kig Op 14

Jakob Baekgaard By

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Music is a sensory art. Hands touching the keyboard, bass strings that are plucked and the rustling of cymbals. Sounds form patterns and familiar sounds become clichés and then the trouble starts. The immediacy of the first movement, that first touch is lost. In a sense, every musician battles this process that dulls the listener's senses and transforms new and exciting sounds into the echoes of yesterday.

The trick is to change perspective to see and hear things in a new way. This is exactly what Danish pianist Simon Toldam's trio does on the album Kig Op 14. It is the first part of a duology. The second part will be released in 2015. Both albums are conceptual works where most of the titles refer to things that can be seen when one looks up in the sky: birds, clouds, smoke signals and a branch on a tree.

This way of seeing things in a new perspective becomes a metaphor for the music itself that is as melodically enchanting as it rhythmically skewed. The compositions are perfect metamorphoses where new forms and sounds arise through the collective improvisation of the group. For instance, "Steps" starts as an exercise in Steve Reich-like piano-repetition, but soon breaks the repetitive rhythm with unpredictable jumps, marching drums and wild swinging before settling into a cool, relaxed groove with pointillistic piano.

The most impressive thing about the trio's music is the feeling that anything can happen and yet the musicians play with a tightness and delicacy where it is possible to follow every move in a train of thought. Each musician is a virtuoso on his instrument. Earlier this year, bassist Nils Bo Davidsen released his own acclaimed solo album Noget at glæde sig til (ILK, 2014) where he showed his encyclopedic knowledge of his instrument. Knut Finsrud is an empathic drummer. His playing on the drums is both spacious, tight and, at times, humorous. His way to play with space and silence is reminiscent of Paul Motian and he does not have a need to show off. He knows that a whisper can be as forceful as a scream.

In the middle of it all is Toldam himself who has played with avant-garde-drummer Han Bennink and has the rare ability to combine experimental unpredictability with exquisite lyricism. He can play a beautiful ballad like "Den evige gren," break into roaring Cecil Taylor-thunder on "Propel," send a barrelhouse-blues salute to the old masters on "Flying V over Appenæs" and play his instrument like an Arabian harp on "Kirkespir and Minaret," but most of all his sense of harmony and texture is spellbinding.

Together these three musicians have created their own sound, their own way of seing and hearing. It is time to look out for this trio and judging from the music on this album, volume two is definitely something to anticipate with eagerness, but right now, this lovely album is a joy to behold in itself.

Track Listing: Step; Glasperle på Himmelbjerget; Op, Ned, Sol, Måne; Propel; Se, en fugle kigger ned; Luftkaligrafi; Den evige gren; N, S, Ø, V; Kan skyerne spoles frem?; Kirkespir & Minaret; Røgsignal; Flying V over Appenæs.

Personnel: Simon Toldam: piano; Nils Bo Davidsen: bass; Knut Finsrud: drums, percussion.

Title: Kig Op 14 | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: ILK Music

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