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Lars-Erik Norrstrom Trio: Vogel

John Kelman By

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Following up his first effort, 2000’s Idag , Swedish pianist Lars-Erik Norrstrom reconvenes the same trio for Vogel , another album of spirited jazz with a predilection towards free improvisation which, while broad in its scope, is miniature in its approach. There are no long-winded freeform explorations here; instead Norrstrom keeps things succinct, resulting in fifteen pieces that display a broad palette of musical colours.

Listeners take note: while the album starts off in a more conventional piano trio setting, by about a third into the album Norrstrom introduces synthesizers and recorders to the mix, further deepening the sonic ambience.

While there are clear nods to Bill Evans, especially in the more lyrical tracks including the opener, “June,” and the closer, “Hannele’s Sea,” there is a strong sense of Swedish folk music, as demonstrated in “Ice Flowers.” There are a number of free pieces, including the four group improvisations “Vogel II,” “Vogel III,” “Vogel V,” and “Vogel XIV”; throughout there is a sense of space, an openness that clearly suggests roots in European post-impressionism.

Norrstrom chooses unusual textures on the synthesizer, sometimes jarring and angular, as in “Installation III,” other times glass-like and soothing, as in “Dirge.” Throughout he manages to find memorable motifs, even in more extroverted tracks like “Piano Surprise,” which begins with a Cecil Taylor-like attack and then settles into a more spacious piano solo before the trio comes in for a brief, synthesizer-driven, high energy coda.

Bassist Bruno Råberg, who now resides in Boston as an associate professor at the Berklee College of Music, demonstrates sensitivity, and an almost elastic ability to work within the wide number of musical contexts presented on the album. The tender ballad “Saknad” is a showcase for his rich tone and deeply lyrical approach. His ability to anchor the proceedings while at the same time providing the push-and-pull necessary in a freer group improvisational context is no surprise, as his own album, this year’s Ascensio also testifies. Drummer Terje Sundby, whose résumé includes a veritable who’s who of modern Swedish jazz, is the perfect foil for Norrstrom and Raberg. His opening solo on Raberg’s “It’s a Long Way to Vase” reveals a percussionist with as strong a melodic sense as his musical compatriots.

Vogel is a fine sophomore effort from a pianist who, in blending lyrical melodic ideas within a free jazz context, in combining a naturalistic approach with a broader sonic palette, and in keeping together a clearly sensitive and simpatico trio, is developing a highly personal approach to improvised music.

For more information visit www.lj-records.se .


Track Listing: June, Hologram, New Hope, Reflections, Vogel II, Vogel XIV, Vogel III, Vogel V, Installation III, Dirge, Ice Flowers, Piano Surprise, Saknad, It's a Long Way to Vase, Hannele's Sea

Personnel: Lars-Erik Norrstrom (piano, keyboards, soprano recorder), Bruno Raberg (bass), Terje Sundby (drums, percussion)

Title: Vogel | Year Released: 2004

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