The legacy of pianist Bill Evans has become so predominant among emerging pianists that it is refreshing to hear someone who shuns the late pianist's lyrical introversion in favor of a more outgoing and playful approach. This is certainly the case with Swedish pianist Magnus Hjorth, whose second album in his own name, Old New Borrowed Blue, shows an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz history, ranging from ragtime to post-bop.
Hjorth's vehicle is the trio, with his countryman Petter Eldh taking care of the bass while Norwegian Snorre Kirk handles the drums. These are clearly musicians who enjoy playing together, and this shines through in the bouncing rhythms and infectious melodies of compositions such as "Gumbo," with Hjorth's dancing runs on the piano and Kirk's original approach to the sticks, which emulates the sound of a step dance.
For those who have complained that young jazz musicians are not aware of jazz history, "The Mistress" sets the record straight with a stride piano intro that would have made Fats Waller proud, quickly transforming itself into a heated bop tune from one second to the next. This ability to change style on a dime is a special characteristic of the trio, which is all the more impressive since it avoids the pitfall of reducing the musical references to pastiche.
Instead, Old New Borrowed Blue is a love letter to jazz in all its different forms. It is no coincidence that Hjorth has cited Marcus Roberts as a primary influence, a player who more than anyone has assimilated all styles of jazz into his own playing. Another voice that is heard in Hjorth's approach to the piano is McCoy Tyner, whose Latin-influenced rhythms and fat block chords have shaped the sound of this trio. It is not too far off the mark, then, that the back of the cover depicts a close-up of Hjorth's black shoes. This is definitely music made for the feet and it easily dances its way into the heart.
Track Listing: Qloose; Ballroom Steps; Let's Face The Music And Dance; Good Friday; The Mistress; Gumbo; Stomping At The Savoy; Barber Rhett; Sunday Service; Madhouse.
Personnel: Magnus Hjorth: piano; Petter Eldh: bass; Snorre Kirk: drums.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.