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Haakon Graf/Erik Smith/ Per Mathisen: Sunrain

Mark Sullivan By

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"Sunrain" is a common Scandinavian weather phenomenon: after weeks of rain, there are often clouds with showers pouring down as the sun peers through the other side. Keyboardist/composer Haakon Graf considers it "a metaphor for the fabric of life, a place between a smile and a tear, like my music..." His trio with drummer Erik Smith and bassist Per Mathisen began performing live in 2011. The liners name them Norway's leading jazz-funk trio, and based on the music here that claim is easy to believe. This is a world-class band with a sound that recalls fusion keyboard-oriented music from artists like Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul (and Weather Report). Sunrain is a live recording with both audio and video (DVD) discs.

Graf plays Yamaha S80 and Motif synthesizers, dual keyboards which allow him to get any sound from acoustic piano to strings and solo synthesizer voices. Smith is both powerful and expressive on the drums. Bassist Mathisen is equally impressive on electric and upright bass, plus an arsenal of electronic effects—there's a shot of his enormous pedal board on the DVD included in this package—providing huge grooves and colorful solos. Memorable moments include the propulsive repeated riff that ends "Herbal Music" (recalling Weather Report); the bass melody and the synthesizer solo that follows on "Paperflowers;" and the dense percussion on the title tune (which definitely sounds like more than one player, in addition to grooving like mad).

The DVD and CD recordings come from different performances, although there is considerable overlap in the set lists. The DVD was live at Olsen Bar Oslo, December 2014, and runs for over 90 minutes. It's a fairly straightforward performance video, mainly focusing on the stage, with a few shots of the club and the audience (and that pedal board close-up). The audio CD was recorded at Olsen Bar Oslo and Buddy Scene Drammen, Norway, in August 2015, and runs almost 70 minutes. All of the performances are characterized by group chemistry, individual virtuosity, and lively music leavened with a bit of humor. Either format is a great way for a fusion fan to spend an hour or so.

Track Listing: CD: Fat Freddy´s Cat; Santa Monica; Thrustin´; Herbal Music; Paperflowers; Sunrain; Funkalectual; Good Groove; My Intentions - Zawisong.
DVD: Santa Monica; Herbal Music; Garfield; Thrustin´; Fat Freddy´s Cat; Romjulsdrøm; Funkalectual Sensitivity; Tickle Me; We Ate; My Intentions; Zawisong; In The Pocket.

Personnel: Haakon Graf: keyboards; Erik Smith: drums; Per Mathisen: bass.

Title: Sunrain | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Losen Records


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