REVIEW: Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard at Pizza Express Jazz Club (2018 EFG LJF)

The Espen Eriksen Trio and Andy Sheppard
St George's Bristol, 12 October 2018
Photo credit: Evan Dawson

Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard
(Pizza Express Jazz Club, 24 November 2018. Review by Mike Collins)


The encore was like a slow, extended exhalation. Andy Sheppard nudged intervals round a scale, sounding two notes at a time, Espen Eriksen gradually colouring them with gently stroked chords. A swell in volume and they came to rest. Beautifully judged, it left a warm glow to carry us home.

Since a first gig with Sheppard in a 2016 stop at Pizza Express, Eriksen’s trio, with Andreas Bye on drums and Lars Tormod Jenset on bass, has been working with the tenor man, touring and recording. The album Perfectly Unhappy was released earlier this year (reviewed by LondonJazz) from which, much of the material for this gig was drawn.

The tunes are built from the simplest of melodic and harmonic elements. Melodies follow the contours of cadences that would feel like a law of nature had ruptured if they didn’t resolve; rocking pulses that intensify but would shock if they accelerated too much. Sheppard is a master at taking materials like this and creating moments of lustrous beauty again and again.

On the opener, Above the Horizon, breathy flutters heralded a folky theme over an even dancing grooving and, somehow, runs and swoops created tension and suspense as the warm tones of the tenor expanded the melody. There were changes of pace. Indian Summer built up a head of steam as Sheppard ramped up the energy and Eriksen dug in with some bluesey turns. Anthem developed a gospelly edge, the tenor solo skidding across the full range within single phrases. Revisited had a rolling momentum and elicited a singing bass solo.

There was a little jolt of memory for these ears as a graced piano phrase hung in the air over the slap of a backbeat from the drums and a propulsive bass note. Something of the vibe in that moment put me back in more or less the same place in the audience in the late '90s, with Esbjörn Svensson at the piano. Comparisons with that trio are perhaps a little well worn, but it’s easy to hear something of it in this music.

On this gig it was the insistent intensity of grooves, sympathy between the four musicians and melodic invention that made the music glow. And that encore, Home, was just the right note on which to send us out.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

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