PREVIEW: Arild Andersen Trio (UK trio dates May 12-20, Quartet with Helge Lien, Ronnie Scott's May 21st)

L.-R.: Paolo Vinaccia, Arild Andersen, Tommy Smith

Norwegian double bass master Arild Andersen brings his trio featuring Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith and Italian drummer Paolo Vinaccia to the UK this month for a nine concert tour that sees the group expanding to a quartet, with the addition of pianist Helge Lien, for its final date, at Ronnie Scott’s on Saturday, May 21. Rob Adams explains the background:

Arild Andersen is respected around the world as one of the chief contributors to top European jazz label ECM Records, having featured on over forty albums for the label. He has also worked with many of the great American jazz players, including Chick Corea, Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny, and John Scofield as well as fellow Scandinavians Jan Garbarek, Nils Petter Molvaer, and Bugge Wesseltoft. In the 1960s he learned jazz from the masters, by listening to Miles Davis and John Coltrane on record but also by playing, as part of a local rhythm section, with visiting soloists such as Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin and Stan Getz, with whom Andersen also toured in the U.S. “That was great experience, learning on the bandstand from the leading American players of the time,” he says. “You were really put on the spot and had to respond instantaneously or take a solo that you had to make sure kept up the standard of the music. These guys kept you on your toes.”

Towards the end of the 1960s, with the encouragement of another American, trumpeter Don Cherry, Andersen and his contemporaries, saxophonist Jan Garbarek, guitarist Terje Rypdal and drummer Jon Christensen created a form of jazz that was based partly on folk music and partly on the flowing style of interaction between the musicians.

This Nordic style fed into the ECM Records catalogue, with players such as American pianist Keith Jarrett forming his Scandinavian Quartet with Garbarek, Christensen and bassist Palle Danielsson, and has remained popular through the decades. Its influence can still be felt in Andersen’s trio with  Tommy Smith and Paolo Vinaccia, which became an instant success on its formation in 2007, earning rave reviews worldwide for its ECM debut, Live at Belleville.

“In the trio everyone is equal,” says Andersen. “It’s like the way we played in Norway in the late 1960s in that Tommy might play the melody instrument but he can also be an accompanist and Paolo and I are the rhythm section but either of us can also be the lead voice.”

A second album, Mira, released by ECM in 2013, captured this approach in a more reflective way than its full-on predecessor but, for Andersen, the group’s success is down to how the three musicians react onstage in the moment – and in the case of the Ronnie’s date, how the four musicians, with the addition of Helge Lien, interact.

Lien is one of the leading Scandinavian pianists of his generation. A graduate of the Norwegian Academy of Music, where he studied with Russian pianist Misha Alperin, he works in a variety of musical styles, including the folkloric style that has informed Andersen’s own music, and he made his international breakthrough with his trio’s award-winning Hello Troll album in 2008.

“Helge has worked with us in a quartet before,” says Andersen. “He joined us at Oslo Jazz Festival last August in the concert that was chosen by the critics as the best of the festival, and he’s going to play with us in Oxford the night before Ronnie Scott’s in a concert that BBC Radio 3 is recording for broadcast. He introduces a different dynamic and gives us an extra dimension in that there’s a harmony instrument that we don’t normally have. It’s really exciting to have him along. He’s such a creative player and a real inspiration to work with.”


Thursday, May 12, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
Friday, May 13, Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline
Saturday, May 14, West Kilbride Village Hall
Sunday, May 15, Inchyra Arts Club, near Perth
Tuesday, May 17, Band on the Wall, Manchester
Wednesday May 18, Lakeside Arts, Nottingham
Thursday, May 19, St Georges, Bristol
Friday, May 20, Holywell Music Room, Oxford
Saturday May 21st Ronnie Scott's, London. Quartet with Helge Lien, piano

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