Recorded live in Helsinki’s KOM Theater during a 1998 Nordic tour, KOM-live
offers a meditative study of emotional density and group interaction filtered through an abstract refraction of the piano trio. The group consists of three standouts from the Nordic region: pianist Samuli Mikkonen (Finland), bassist Anders Jormin (Sweden) and drummer Audun Kleive (Norway).
Playing their way through a set of five open-ended, original compositions, the trio fills KOM- live with swirls of sound. Intensity comes through vivid details and liquid interaction. They speak in whispers rather than shouts, creating motion without busyness. The tunes and their slippery, shifting structures do often exhibit a sameness, seeming more vehicles for the heady interplay between the players; one does not leave the disc humming melodies or rhythms.
Herein, however, lies the music’s substance: you can hear the musicians being absorbed in the moment of the creation, as everyone contributes to the music’s fluid melody, harmony and rhythm.
The trio exudes poise and confidence on this disc: every note seems lingered upon, carefully considered, then revealed. They slip effortlessly into solos, making every note sound fully integrated. They create an intimate sound that is wholly their own. On Jormin’s “Sediment”, Kleive flutters through an intro that becomes pulsing brush work. Sharp upper register punctuations from Jormin lock in the pulse, but still suggest freedom. Mikkonen enters; he and Jormin find some meeting places, then travel on, extending the structure to its outer limits, but never breaking it.
Mikkonen’s two contributions to the album, “Murheista muovaeltu” (Made Out of Sorrows) and “Noli Me Te Tangere,” exhibit his burgeoning story-telling abilities, both as a composer and a player. On the piano, he constructs long melodic phrases that seem to extend infinitely, constantly opening up new harmonic doors. By unfolding his ideas over time, he allows the others space to build their own ideas. On “Murheista muovaeltu” Jormin provides abstract, bowed counterpoint at moments, then winds his way towards more vigorous melodic statements. On “Noli Me Te Tangere”, Kleive subtly brushes the pulse, while Jormin carefully juxtaposes his deep, resonating notes with tight, melodic phrases.
Mikkonen , the youngest, coaxes a delicate yet confident tone from the piano and brings to the table spacious compositions that allow for a maximum of group input.
Of the three, Jormin is the best known in the international jazz community. His deep, melodic sound has graced albums by, among others, Tomasz Stanko, Bobo Stenson, Don Cherry and Charles Lloyd. He hits notes and lets them ring, lets you soak them up; his tone is always clear and sharp. In his hands, the bass becomes a thoughtful, emotive force. On this record, his writing brings out the lively, more rhythmic side of the trio. Listen to how a delicate swing surfaces in the climax of his solo on “Livin’ My Life.”
Over the years Audun Kleive has worked in Norway’s rich, yet underexposed, jazz scene, playing on albums by Terje Rypdal and Arlid Andersonas well as releasing more electronica- oriented albums under his own name on Bugge Wesseltoft’s Jazzland label. Throughout this set Kleive provides the middle path between Jormin’s bold expressiveness and Mikkonen’s understated gentleness.
Look for this trio to tour again some time in 2003.