Almost deliberately, Tenging doesn't make a terribly memorable impression at first. It is subtle enough not to stick in the listener's head and seems shorter than its respectable 42 minutes. This understated quintet recording is patient and quietly confident enough to exist in its own bubble. As it happens, that's exactly the pointIngi Bjarni Skúlason's approach here is about rejecting the world's fast-paced distractions in favor of intuition and mindfulness. The pieces were simply grown with no particular agenda, all based around the personalities of the players he'd been lucky enough to cross paths with in the course of performance and study.
While he serves as the catalyst, the session fittingly takes shape as more of an ensemble piece than anything else. The all-original compositions are centered around evocative concepts or moods: most of the song titles translate to simple phrases like "On Sunday" or "Bittersweet Melancholy." Some are hung on motifs as simple as two-or three-note patterns around which the melodists lightly dash off their strokes. At the trickiest point in "Falin laglína" (Hidden Melody), things follow a precise line which the leads stroll through and modulate in smooth unison.
Expanding from his accustomed trio doesn't leave Skúlason's arrangements feeling crowded; instead, he keeps each individual component minimal enough that five heads sound just as level as three. The leader's piano shares space with Merje Kägu's atmospheric electric guitar and Jakob Eri Myhre's softly evocative trumpet, all mixing their hues in the same wash of understated tones. When they build to a peak or two in the course of thingssee the clattering title track, whose Icelandic title means "connection"it is done without speeding up or adding more notes, but rather with an artful use of loud and soft. Take some time with it, and Tenging indeed turns out to be a work to connect with and enjoy.
Já í dag; Kannski blús; Ballad for My Fearless Friend; Á sunnudegi; Tenging; Angurvært; Falin laglína;
Ekki þjóðlag, ekki jazz.
Ingi Bjarni Skúlason: piano; Jakob Eri Myhre: trumpet; Merje Kägu: guitar; Daniel Andersson: bass;
Tore Ljøkelsøy: drums.
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