Leading-edge Norwegian pianist Håvard Wiik is a widely acclaimed artist via his work in the eminent Scandinavian free bop band, Atomic and collaborations with saxophonists Joe Lovano, Ken Vandermark and many other jazz VIPs. Yet he's equally at home settling into modern jazz frameworks or when venturing into the outside peripheries of jazz. But this release, recorded with his piano trio, delivers a smaller scale and comprehensive synthesis of his advanced technical skills, approach and style.
Wiik injects Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman mini-motifs into some of his works. But the prevailing factors are centered upon his strong original compositions. Indeed, it's vividly noticeable that the musicians are in-synch and score high marks for their collective chemistry. They are agile, hard-hitting and whirl through complex unison choruses with precision and eloquence. The band is also apt to drastically contrast a given theme as they zoom in for the kill or throw the listener for a loop with unexpected detours.
"Mnemonic Functions" is the final track and is partly built on a reverse-engineered, cyclical theme amid Wiik's flailing abstract classical type maneuvers. However, drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen is on fire, as he incorporates small bells, cymbals, a cowbell and other implements to complement an explosive polyrhythmic attack. Meanwhile, bassist Ole Morten Vågan lays down a timestamp with bulging notes, and ups the ante when the trio gels to a frenzied free bop groove.
It's a wickedly intense piece intensified by Wiik's fluctuating chord voicings, yet toned-down towards the finale, where his warmly crafted harmonics atop the rhythm section's temperate support segues into a whispering fadeout. Essentially, Wiik and associates execute a multidimensional performance, incited by the spell-binding finale "Mnemonic Functions" and other works that pose a host of beguiling developments.
Track Listing: Calligrams; Neidbau; Tudor Style; Bought & Muzzled; Ceci N'est Pas Une Valse; Tear Conveyor; Pneumatiques; Mnemonic Functions.
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