The bebop and hard bop revolution of the forties and fifties made speed a virtue as razor-sharp unison lines cut through the rhythms. A saxophonist like Johnny Griffin was praised for his fast way of playing that also underlined his technical virtuosity, and the muscular style signaled a music completely in touch with modernity.
Nowadays, there is little new land to conquer in terms of speed, but a new millennium has opened a frontier where silence and space are the components of musical innovation. It has much to do with the world we live in where silence and contemplation seem like a luxury that most people can't afford. Perhaps one day we will forget what it means to sit still in contemplation, gazing at the clouds in the sky, but then music, slow music, will be the entry into a world where it's possible to reconnect with a feeling of presence. The record spinning could very well be Simon Toldam Trio's Omhu.
In the liner notes, pianist Toldam refers to the meaning of the word "omhu," which is Danish and explained in the following way: "being precise, careful and conscientious in the execution, treatment, or care of something." Toldam goes on to say that these are qualities that he connects with his late grandfather, Aage Toldam, adding that he was into wood.
The qualities of "omhu" can also be used to describe the trio and, like Toldam's grandfather, they are also into wood: the organic sound of the piano tangents, the warm buzz of the bass played with bow and carefully plucked wooden notes.
At first, the music seems almost anonymous as it evolves out of staccato patterns and rubato ambience, but new layers are added all the time. The chime of a cymbal, the mournful sound of the bass played with bow, the fine crystalline patterns of the piano. A little melody breaks through like light in a tunnel on "Ind i tunnellen" ("Into the Tunnel") and hushed chords play a slow lullaby on "Cirkel" ("Circle").
It's the careful attention to details that almost makes the music three-dimensional. The trio improvises like a unit with drummer Knut Finsrud and bassist Nils Davidsen being just as important as Toldam's restrained piano figures.
There are many colors and shades in the music, but those looking for a dynamic approach in terms of fast speed and high volume might be disappointed. As a member of avantgarde-drummer Han Bennink's trio, Toldam knows all about contrasts and surprises, but here he speaks in a subtle language with his trio and explores the potential of silence and space. It is a different musical approach to the boppers,' but the uncompromising integrity of the aesthetic is the same.
Ind i tunnelen; 6000 år; Hurtig indeni, langsom udenpå; Illumination; Cirkel; Sol; Se, der kommer en dag; Så godt du går;
Musik for orgel.
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