Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Asa Trio: Craning

Asa Trio
Craning (Sunny Sky; 2014)
Agnar Már Magnússon (organ)
Andrés Thor (guitar)
Scott McLemore (drums)

A more mature Asa Trio emerged last year with the release of Craning. A wonderful and well developed fourth album (first with full original material) from the young Icelandic trio. 

Craning melds and magnifies each members strengths that many have seen in their solo projects. This a beautiful record from the romantic folkish opener "Something To Make You Change Your Mind," which is soft and crowd pleasing. This extends to the gospel-tinged "Green Door" in which Magnusson's organ lays a steady pallate of emotions that envelops the listener. 

The great thing that has always excited me about Asa Trio is that while this is might sometimes be referred to as an organ trio (if you want to describe it that way), they actually are a much more like a one conhesive unit than that. Thor and McLemore both shine throughout individually on latter portion of session which turn quite reviting and funky ("On Pluto" and "What Was I Thinking").

Craning is a superb debut of original material from what is now a veteran trio. I have written their praises for a few years now. And this is just another sign of their continued growth both individually and as group. Highly recommend. And should have been part of my best of 2014 if I every put that list together like I promised. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Building Instrument

Building Instrument (trio)
Building Instrument (Hubro; 2014)
Mari Kvien Brunvoll (vocals, percussion)
Oyvind Hegg-Lunde (drums and percussion) 
Asmund Weltzien (synthesizer, electronics, melodica)

Peaceful. Thoughtful. Enveloping. These are just a few impressions you might come away with after experiencing lush beauty of the Building Instrument debut album.

The Norwegian trio present a mellow experimental folk sound that blends contemporary themes with acoustic and electronic instruments all the while feeling sparse and emotional. Brunvoll voice adds an ethereal quality reminiscent of Elizabeth Frazer or A.C. Marias. But those references are only that--references. Brunvoll glistens alongside percussions and keyboards on wistful, "Bli Med. And the wonderful and heartbreaking opener "Historia," show that this trio is working on a completely different plan than most within the genre.

A more rhythmic and soulful stance is taken with "Klokka Sju," A nightfall midtempo piece with a laid back groove that's driven forward by Brunvoll's vocals but enhanced by electronics and succinct patterns laid down by Hegge-Lunde.

Building Instrument is a solid and startling debut that puts faith and fuel back into the emotional void left bands like Cocteau Twins, Cranes, and Dead Can Dance (even though DCD are back recording). Building Instrument provide a new direction and perfect path towards the future. A lovely debut and hopefully we hear and see more from them sooner rather than later. Highly Recommended.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Arni Karlsson: Hold

JazzWrap: 2014 Album Of The Year

Árni Karlsson (piano)
Hold (Mold Music; 2014)
Þorgrímur Jónsson (bass)
Scott McLemore (drums)

Romantic and modern. That is the best way to describe the new album from Icelandic veteran, Arni Karlsson. On his fourth release, Hold, Karlsson explores similar territory to his previous trio effort, Mold. Again, the composition are excellently crafted and brilliantly executed by Jonsson and McLemore.

"Time" is beautiful and spacious. The piece is filled with moments patience that allows the notes to linger and listeners imagination to absorb and drift with the melody. While still a midtempo ballad, the trio does begin a slow climb to heavy tonality towards the mid-period on the tune, but the overall impression of the piece is still calm and reflective.

"Morning Glow" and "View" both provide different insights into the trio. "Morning Glow" flows with a classical perspective but infused with some bubbly chord changes on Karlsson's part. "View" is an uptempo piece flexing more muscle amongst all three musicians. McLemore and Karlsson working counter with Jonsson exploring a steady path enhances the rhythm just underneath.

The closing number, "Petra," is a bit of a departure for Karlsson. It maintains his tradition playing but the composition has more improvised and stunning moments performed by Jonsson and McLemore. They seem to stretch out more. This piece seemed slightly reminiscent of the latter E.S.T. works. Very enlightening and a nice framework for the future.

Hold is a consistent and enchanting session that I have yet to stop listening to over the last few months. Arni Karlsson has created an album in Hold that will make you fall in love with it on every spin. Highly and Emotionally Recommended.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tann: Needle Committed

Tann (trio)
Needle Committed (Traumton Records; 2014)
Dirk Häfner (guitar)
René Bornstein (bass)
Demian Kappenstein (drums)

A fun and interesting discovery a few days ago. I stumble my way into listening to the new release from German trio, Tann. This is an exciting record from a growing set of cross genre bending veterans on the German scene.

Needle Committed is a beautiful blend of both jazz and rock that stands out among many of the European trios of the moment. This is mainly due to emphasis on the guitar instead of the piano. Bouncing numbers like "Mandy's Dandy," and "Nanunks Garten" bring a fierce energy that cuts with rock intensity filled with steady intricate lines of the jazz ethos.

"Dra Di Net Um" with its funk basslines and staccato structure show the trio and embody avant garde and groovy in the same four minute span. While "Orgosolo" is more of a gentle ballad which you would have expected from a guitar trio like this. But this beautiful piece comes very late into the album and is a welcome spot--showing maturity as well as standout quality.

Needle Committed provides a new variety of styles that should provide a number of hours for the listen to dissect and enjoy. I've loved listening to this record over the last few days. Here's hoping that we hear more Tann soon rather than later.