Losen: LOS296-2

Dag Arnesen: piano; Magne Thormodsæter: bass; Øyvind Skarbø: drums

Recorded 19th-21st November 2023 by Davide Bertolini at Griegakademiet Studio, Bergen, Norway.

At any moment in the opening bars of ‘A new one’ which opens this set, you expect a singer to come in with a song celebrating a new baby or some other auspicious occasion. The tune unfolds with a hook that could easily come from a Disney musical (which I am using as high praise, given how much I enjoy these) because of its immediacy and clarity.

The ambiguity in meaning of this tune’s title is also seen in ‘A special memory’, track 9, which was originally composed a while ago and he is no longer able to recall the memory that inspired it, or ‘Ice breaking’, track 2, which (at least in English idiom) could mean introducing yourself to someone new, or having the ice beneath you give way, or making a path through ice.

The hesitancy of the opening bars hint at the first of these interpretations, but the piece progresses with a sense of jeopardy (for the second meaning) and the clarity of vision of the piece suggests the third. Through the piece, Arnesen’s stabbed left-hand supports a gloriously shimmering right-hand that produces cascades of melodies.

It is no surprise to read that Arnesen reveres the work of Grieg, as the ways in which the tunes evolve through undulating musical phrases (albeit in jazz’s complicated rhythmic patterns) suggests Greig’s piano concerto. Nowhere is this synergy more apparent than on ‘Sarah’, track 3, written for Arnesen’s pet cat.

While the album is full of crystal clear melodic inventions, tracks like ‘After dinner’, track 7, shift the focus to carefully choreographed chord progressions that circle around a simple rhythmic pattern to evoke post-prandial relaxation.

There is also, in ‘Bim Bam Bom’, track 6, a hint of Miles Davis jazz-rock with a ticking drum pattern under a simple motif with clear hints of modal composition techniques. For me, this was one of the stand-out moments of the set and, with the collected pieces here, demonstrate the breadth of styles in which Arnesen’s deceptively simple melodic playing, often disguises the challenge of complex compositional ideas.