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The Poetry of Places: Paula Shocron and Bjørn Solli

Jakob Baekgaard By

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There is something about places. A particular place can create a special mood. When it comes to music, a place can create a unique frame that adds inspiration and ambience. Just think of the music recorded at the Village Vanguard. The name itself is enough to send shivers down the spine.

However, unique musical places do not have to be connected with legendary venues. Sometimes, a surprising setting can have an equally enchanting effect and this is the case with the albums from Argentinian pianist Paula Shocron and Norwegian guitarist Bjørn Vidar Solli.

Paula Shocron Trio
Surya
Kuai Music
2014

Paula Shocron's name will be familiar to those listeners who have discovered Justo Lo Prete's Rivorecords. She has released three recommendable records in her own name on the label. Two with a trio and one solo piano record. The album Surya is another trio recording, but this time it is produced by herself and sees her moving in another direction than the standard-influenced repertoire on Rivorecords. Instead, the weight lies on Shocron's original compositions.

The album was recorded in the historical setting of Villa Ocampo that has been owned by UNESCO since 1973. The house, which is now a cultural center, radiates with the atmosphere of the many artists that visited that place, including the composer Igor Stravinsky and the author Albert Camus. In this poetic setting, Shocron has created a work that ties the threads between the present and the past. The echoes of yesterday linger on the trio's epic exploration of the standard "Angel Eyes" and "Coral" has the elegiac feeling of classical music. Shocron and her trio clearly know the musical styles of the past and respect them, but they are subtly deconstructing them as the name of one of the compositions, "Unblues," implies. The strict meter of the blues is taken apart in a glorious free-form composition with abrupt lines flowing like a river going in different directions, but suddenly bassist Juan Manuel Bayón plays with a straight walking bass pattern. It is this combination between a traditional way of swinging and a modernistic approach to the material that is characteristic of the trio.

Echoes of fellow pianists Andrew Hill and Thelonious Monk are heard in Shocron's playing, but her crystalline tone is all her own and her fellow musicians, drummer Bruno Varela and bassist Bayón, play with poetic empathy. As a special gesture, they receive two solo spotlights on the haiku-like "Reflejo," where Varela's percussion sings with sophistication, and "Supersol," with Bayón's muffled bass buzzing like a bee.

Surya simply shines with melodic invention and a sense of jazz history. It is fitting that an album filled with so much poetry and light should be created in such an artistic setting as the Villa Ocampo.

Bjørn Vidar Solli
Aglow: The Lyngør Project Volume 1
Lyngør Records
2014

While the Villa Ocampo in Buenos Aires is the setting that inspired the music of Paula Shocron, Norwegian guitarist Bjørn Vidar Solli has found his muse on Lyngør, the name of a group of islands in Norway. In his thorough liner notes, Solli writes about his meeting with the place and its history and function: "At first I was struck by the sheer beauty of the place. Lyngør is a group of islands that once was a bustling place sheltering ships from the at times brutal seas, housing sea captains and other maritime workers. Today, Lyngør is a tranquil and quiet place home to 60 people during fall, winter and spring. And as soon as summer hits, it quickly transforms into a lollapalooza of epic proportions as several thousand people descend on the islands to spend their holidays in this summer wonderland."

The music Solli has written reflects the complex nature of Lyngør that is both busy and tranquil. Indeed, it would be wrong to assume that the album can be reduced to the characteristic melancholy Nordic sound known from many ECM-releases. There is simply too much swing here, but the swing is balanced by the reflective mood and melancholy sweetness of the album. Solli's sound on the guitar is like his compositions, lucid and singing without fancy effects.

The compositions are fleshed out by a group of musicians that most leaders would wish for, including luminaries like saxophonist Seamus Blake, bassist Matt Clohesy, pianist Aaron Parks, drummer Bill Stewart and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen. It is easy to be impressed by such a list of names, but what matters most is that they carry out the leader's compositions with tastefulness and grace. What remains in the end is a successful meeting between the sound of the propulsive city and the reflective beauty found in nature. It is a swinging take on the Nordic sound that is worth hearing and the title of the album The Lyngør Project Volume 1 suggests that there is even more great music out in the horizon.

Tracks and Personnel

Surya

Tracks: Nuevos Recuerdos; Coral; What's Your Story Morning Glory?; XXI; Angel Eyes; Reflejo; Supersol; Surya; Unblues.

Personnel: Paul Shocron: piano; Juan Manuel Bayón: bass; Bruno Varela: drums.

The Lyngør Project Volume 1

Tracks: Windjammer; Aglow in the Dark; To the Lighthouse; Calenture; Sweet Lingering; Rabalder; August at Last; Battle of Lyngør; A Dog Named Fanny.

Personnel: Bjørn Vidar Solli: guitar; Seamus Blake: tenor & soprano saxophone; Aaron Parks: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass; Bill Stewart: drums; Ingrid Jensen: trumpet (#3, #4, #8, #9)

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