CD REVIEW: Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard – Perfectly Unhappy


Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard – Perfectly Unhappy
(Rune Grammofon RCD 2199. CD review by Peter Bacon)

The sound of surprise – that’s what jazz is supposed to give us. But what happens when everyone is constantly surprising us with a new rhythm change, the new use of a scale, a new mash-up of styles. Is there not a point when the previously unsurprising becomes, once more, the unexpected.

There are melodies on this album of original compositions by Norwegian pianist Espen Eriksen which you can sing along to on first hearing, because you know where they are going, how they will resolve. And it’s that ability to predict which becomes a new surprise. These are melodies with the rock-solidity of folk tunes.

The trio – Lars Tormod Jenset is on double bass, Andreas Bye on drums and they have been with Eriksen since 2007 – does a lot with the obvious, and their guest UK saxophonist buys in fully to that melodic and harmonic and rhythmic logic.

The opener, Above The Horizon, has a distinctive folk music feel, and Andy Sheppard brings a gently Celtic skirl to his phrasing. The title track has him blowing so gently that we get a breathy gust from the serpentine tube of the tenor with little actual reed note. Suburban Folk Song has Bye using his hands, I think, on the drums for a gently motoring bass-and-drums groove, and again Sheppard is in lilting mood. Sheppard's and Erksen's interacting lines on Naked Trees are simply lovely.

The trio take a lot of their inspiration – it sounds to these ears anyway – from the likes of fellow travellers like Tord Gustavsen and from e.s.t. Eriksen uses some subtle electronics to sometimes double his piano lines with a muted marimba echo, but in the main the acoustic sound is sufficient.

As a unit of four this band is completely “in the zone” throughout the eight tracks that make up this delightful, slightly melancholy but ultimately thoroughly contented album. The album title fits a treat.

I suppose the remaining surprise is that such a thoroughly un-avant-garde album is on the usually adventurous Rune Grammofon label. Or maybe this is the new “out there”.

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