The melodies, played with crystal clarity, build simple harmonies that immediately capture the listener’s attention.
Skip records: SKP9156
Emil Brandqvist: drums, percussion, keyboards; Tuomas A. Turunen: piano, keyboards; Max Thornberg: bass
With Maija Kauhanen: kantele, voice, harmonium; Martin Brandqvisit: flute, clarinet, bass clarinet; Fredrik Davidsson: flugelhorn
And Sjöströmska String Quartet: Jenny Jonsson: violin; Annie Svedlund: violin; Märta Eriksson: viola; Lisa Reuter: ‘cello
Recorded 28th October to 2nd November 2021 by Åke Linton at Svenska grammofonstudion
The opening track, ‘Still awake’, is a good introduction to the trio at their most laid back and tranquil. An insistent left-hand note provides the pulse for the piece while right-hand runs arpeggios around a delicate theme. The bass and drums provide a waltz-like accompaniment and, from around halfway, there is a gradual swell of strings to add lustre.
For most of the pieces, the strings keep a respectful distance from the trio and provide almost an echo of this music. The exception is ‘In between’ where, around a third of the way through, the other musicians approach the music en masse. The piece captures a mood of early morning when the outside world is still and you are lying in bed reflecting on the day or years gone.
This feeling is also captured in tunes such as ‘Solitude’ (track 6) ‘Daydreaming in blue’ (track 11), or ‘Blue hour’ (track 13) . But this is not melancholy music – the pieces tend to be played in a major key and each tune carries a feeling of optimism and hope. The majority of the pieces are slow waltzes or ballads – even ‘Follow the bumblebee’ (track 10) is not a Rimsky-Korsakovian sprint but a relaxed ramble.
At the centre of the album two pieces, ‘In this moment’ (track 8) and ‘Layers of life’ (track 9), crystallise the trios playing and Brandqvist’s way with undulating melody. In the title track, the strings bustle in the background creating an air of tension which the piano solo breaks to close the tune in triumph.
It is easy to see why this trio have gained such a following across Europe (ranking at number 3 on the German Jazz Charts for example). Their music combines a clear melodic vision with catchy rhythms. Each piece is as enigmatic as a poem and, like a poem, distils the essence of emotion into a sharp focus.
The melodies, played with crystal clarity, build simple harmonies (somewhere between folk tunes and pop hooks) that immediately capture the listener’s attention. On this album, the sound is layered with judicious use of a string quartet and of other instruments. Rather than complicate the sound, these additional instruments broaden and enrich the trio’s tone palette.
Reviewed by Chris Baber