...Promising evidence of a trio at work rather than a soloist on show.
Tom Barlow 2007
Norwegian pianist Erik Halvorsen has a knack for crafting elegant, beautifully constructed pieces of music. And it is an ability he demonstrates splendidly on a debut that shuffles between delicate free playing, Monk-like percussiveness and spacey trio interplay.
Mixing experimental improvisations with an almost pop-like catchiness is a trick that fellow Scandinavian pianist Esbjorn Svensson has perfected. Yet Halvorsen – based in Norway’s hippest town, Bergen – offers subtler, more understated diversions.
Halvorsen has been leading this trio (Magne Thormodsæter on acoustic bass and Ivar Thormodsæter and drums) since 2004. All three display an affinity for free jazz – many pieces stretch beyond conventional time – alongside instincts for clubland rhythms. And whilst traces of Monk (at his most lyrical), Herbie Hancock (at his freest) and classical music (Bach in particular) are all overt in Halvorsen’s playing, the results are refreshingly cohesive and cool.
Produced by indie man Kato Adland and recorded on a Bergen boathouse, the session has a relaxed feel, even though the opener ‘'Elektronica'’ is a jawdropper with cascading waves of melody pounded out over a crisp backbeat (Ivar Thormodsæter’s muscular drumming is the star here).
Elsewhere, Halvorsen’s finely wrought arrangements impress on ‘'The Wedding'’, a soulful, classically infused delight that switches rhythmic directions stylishly; and on ‘Kakefantasi’ – a searingly romantic number whose melody recalls the raw lyricism of early Dollar Brand before morphing into the fragile abstraction of a Magne Thormodsæter bass solo.
Whilst the scurrying ‘'Jukesboks'’ pays tribute to the avant-garde lineage, its breakdown into European street samples suggest more modern affiliations. ‘'Rufsetufs'’, meanwhile, is a Monkish boogaloo piece (perhaps the most conventional number in the set) where Halvorsen again distinguishes himself with near telepathic support from his bandmates.
Less is more on this debut, and most impressive is how Halvorsen’s flair for arrangement and improvising are entirely selfless. Like EST, here is promising evidence of a trio at work rather than a soloist on show.