Medbøe/Eriksen/Halle: The Space Between
(Losen Records LOS 151-2. CD Review by Adrian Pallant).
With cover art suggesting a connection across a vast, oceanic expanse, trio release The Space Between brings together the artistic, atmospheric sublimeness of Norwegian-born Haftor Medbøe (guitars), Espen Eriksen (piano, harmonium) and Gunnar Halle (trumpet, voice) in a partnership forged from an extended line-up at the 2013 Edinburgh Jazz Festival.
Resident in Scotland, Medbøe is active on the UK jazz scene, and also jazz musician in residence at Edinburgh Napier University; Eriksen and Halle, too, enjoy established international careers in their own right, as well as recording together as a duo. Created this side of the North Sea, with support from Creative Scotland, here is an album whose varied, often surprising timbres and landscapes fire the imagination with homely warmth, icy bleakness and, above all, an affecting beauty.
Flecked with subtle electronics and hinting at other sound worlds (Arve Henriksen, Harmen Fraanje, Eivind Aarset, even Björk might be sensed), it remains very much its own music, full of adventure, melodic interest… and frequently an underlying element of theatrical mystery. East Pier's descending, limpid melancholy captures the open spirit of Medbøe's seven compositions, each player's exquisite improvisations emanating from shifting, effected mists; and Bell Rock's catchy, muted piano motif provides its attractive pop groove, rising and falling to piano grandeur and breathy trumpet (with an impressive electronic power-down at one stage).
A plaintive Mediterranean feel to Utsira High (Halle's tone not dissimilar to Paolo Fresu) is tempered by mellow guitar, piano and distantly echoed vocal; and breezy, blue-sky Forty Mile Ground possesses memorable trumpet and electric guitar melodies ingeniously seared by electronics. Far away from purely ambient soundscapes, it's the detail which is pivotal to this recording, Skagerrak's feel-good shaped from Eriksen's countryfied piano, Halle's layered, muted trumpet (plus wordless vocals) and Medbøe's gritty guitar sustenance.
Fladen's delicacy is characterised by fluent classical guitar improvisation, once again with many, changing musical confluences to enjoy; and curiously-titled closing number More Viking Than You wheezes forlornly to mechanical harmonium chords and disembodied trumpet harmonics – an otherworldly, European-folk-vocalised anthem (redolent of the work of tubist Daniel Hersekdal) visualising cold, azure-graduated panoramas.
Between them, Medbøe, Eriksen and Halle vividly convey the ebb and flow of natural elements through the carefully crafted spaciality of their music – and I find it captivating.
Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, musician and jazz writer who also reviews at his own site ap-reviews.com