Meeting Helge Lien between sets at Pizza Express
It was the Helge Lien Trio at Pizza Express last night. I discovered that although the doors opened at 7.30, the band wasn't actually on until 9.00! So come 9.00 I was rather annoyed and thinking, "This had better be good..." They were worth the wait though. The music itself is innovative yet easy to listen to, with a harmonic language that reminds me greatly of Bartok at times, but which has a voice all of its own. But it was the rhythmic language that really made me smile. I'm a sucker for unusual time signatures, which of course are de rigueur in modern jazz, but there were some flashes of pure genius in the way that the music fitted together rhythmically. Bassist Frode Berg has a virtuoso technique that you really don't see that often in a bassist - he's as comfortable whizzing around in the higher register as an acccomplished cellist would be, and has a beautiful tone too. And Helge himself is a really unusual player. He has a lightness of touch and a depth of sound that would be every bit as at home in Chopin and Mozart as in modern jazz, and so I was stunned to discover that he hasn't played classical piano since he was 17! I caught up with him between sets to ask him about his influences.
Listen to our conversation.