Monday, July 11, 2011

Arni Karlsson: Boundaries

Arni Karlsson Trio
Boundaries (Dimma Music; 2009)

Arni Karlsson (piano)
Gunnar Hrafnsson (bass)
Matthias Hemstock (drums)

Iceland is quickly becoming one of my favourite jazz spots in the last few months. With exciting young thinkers like Asa Trio and Sunna Gunnlaugs, the scene is on the cusp of something great.

I reached back into my decks and I found an album I hadn't spent much time with in quite a few months--the lovely Arni Karlsson and one of his rare releases, Boundaries (Dimma Music)

After spending most of his younger years training as a classical pianist, Reykjavik based Arni Karlsson then began to balance both his studies and his love for jazz. But he has also experimented with deep house grooves as well writing classical compositions. The interesting thing is how Karlsson has been able to separate his alter-egos. By listening to each varying identity you wouldn't know he was the mastermind behind any of them. That's real talent.

Karlsson has so far only recorded two jazz influenced sessions but Boundaries has always struck me as the most satisfying as it's an intimate date in a trio setting. This is an album that really took a long time to seep into my consciousness. Once it did the melodies couldn't escape me for weeks. There is a gentle tone to the proceeding that is bettered by the superb performances of each member.

The title track "Boundaries" has an element of Keith Jarrett but it is still intimate and reflective enough to present a few twists and changes that give the listener a sense of the creativity and direction Karlsson wants to take you. The Latin rhythm of "Endless Journey" builds beautifully with rolling patterns that move the hips back and forth. It reminds me of lighter material from the Oscar Peterson Trio. Hrafnsson and Hemstock lay a firm but understated groove just below Karlsson's chord lines.

"Confuciousness" demonstrates Karlsson moving in an improvised direction that provides a number of stop/start moments that may take the listener by surprise, but just hang with it. As the piece unfolds and the melody moves in and out, you begin to find your own home and rhythm within the abstract structure. Its exciting, bold, bluesy and improvisation, all of which I love rolled into one piece. "Unborn" is a solemn number that evokes American gospel and a search for some order within confusion. "Unborn" contains a passion that should connect with every listener upon first listen. A wonderful way to close out the session.

Arni Karlsson released Boundaries two years ago but it still resonates for me. It's an album I've really wanted to talk about but only until a few months ago did I start listening to again on a regular basis. If this were from 2011 it would definitely be an album of the year listen. Exquisite lyrical structure, passionate performances and a real sense of adventure when there needs to be. This is what makes Boundaries an album worth seeking out. Highly Recommended.

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