Danish pianist Carsten Dahl has made many fine albums but none finer than his latest, Simplicity.
He describes in a video posted on his record company Storyville's website, how it felt to create it: "I don't have any thoughts about what I play when I play. I focus a lot on not being the one playing, not having any thoughts, not having an expectation of a certain result or a certain sound."
Looking a bit like a bombed-out dosser, Dahl says he sees music as silence. "It's a kind of order and ferocious chaos," he mumbles shyly at the camera. He is merely accompanying that silence, doing God's work maybe.
He has tried to express how he visualizes the process in a cover painting in which what look like rocky outcrops protrude through a sea of boiling cloud into a stormy sky, the sun barely visible.
Don't get the wrong idea. Simplicity is not the result of any sudden, dramatic revelation. It marks no new direction. Dahl sees "a clear link" to his trio's first recording, Will You Make My Soup Hot & Silver?, made more than 20 years ago. And throughout there are musical references to his heroes, "people like Bud Powell, Jan Johansson, Johan Sebastian Bach and many more."
Among the "many more:" Thelonious Monk, who also aimed for simplicity. His influence, along with that of his friend Powell, can be heard in the opener, "A Minor Mood For You" and later in the more ebullient "Monk's Skunk."
Though, strangely enough, the title track owes more to Swedish pianist Jan Johansson than to these founding fathers of bebop.
Bach sneaks unobtrusively into the mix via "Sing, Sing A Song." Unlike the grand master of the Baroque, who laboured for years to perfect his counterpoint, Dahl claims that of his own compositions emerges spontaneously"the fingers get to work on their own."
Dahl's music is both easily accessible and absorbing. Like a Japanese painter, his art is "great in small things," something indicated by song titles such as "Quietness," "Flying Birds" and "Fragility." Though it's a shame one of the best numbers, "A Simpel Waltz," is so horribly mis-spelt. And what "The Surrenders Blues" means is anybody's guess.
Still, if some day a musical historian should get round to working out who it was that took bebop to a logicalor perhaps illogical!conclusion, Carsten Dahl should be a prime candidate for the honoura truly great Dane.
A Minor Mood For You; Simplicity; Sing, Sing A Song; Monk's Skunk; The Dancefloor; Avidity; Dark Moments; Prelude And Blues; Quietness; The Surrenders Blues; Bluespsalm; Flying Birds; A Simpel Waltz; Fragility; Sacrifice And Myth; Beautiful.
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