A lovely journey well worth taking

NXN Recordings NXN2011 / NXN2011LP

Espen Berg (piano)

Recorded live at Dokkhuset, Trondheim on 13th November, 2019

While I was living in Minneapolis in the seventies I attended a Cecil Taylor solo piano concert.

There were two parts; each about 40 minutes long. It was impressive how he physically attacked the piano. It didn’t let up. It was exhausting, it was brutal. I was waiting for keys to start flying off the piano.

In spite of all that excitement the performance left me cold. There was nothing pleasant or delicate. There were no quiet moments to ponder what came before.

Espen Berg’s new, completely improvised, solo piano concert from Trondheim has some of the excitement of a Cecil Taylor concert but with so much more.

So many things change while listening to this ten part album. Moods shift from peaceful to electrifying. The pace suddenly picks up or slows down.

Melodies jump from light to dark or are merely implied. Phrases or notes are played over and over until used up and then they move on. It’s mesmerizing. It’s beautiful.

Espen Berg put out his first solo piano recording, Noctilucent, in 2012.

He put out his second, Acres of Blue in 2014. He said he started working on the solo piano format in 2004. Even though that’s a long time to work on something The Trondheim Concert is an amazing feat.

There aren’t many albums of solo improvised jazz piano that are totally captivating. One of the most famous is Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert from 1975.

It’s easy to compare the two. Both players mostly use the mid range but Berg’s not afraid to bang around on the low end of the piano or to reach farther to his right. Keith Jarrett threw a lot of his influences into the Koln Concert.

You heard Bill Evans and Debussy. There were folk melodies; even hints of rock and country.

Espen Berg’s Trondheim concert sounds much more European with its many nods to classical music and even the occasional Norwegian folk melody.

The Trondheim Concert is one hour and twenty five minutes long. It’s a lovely journey well worth taking.

Reviewed by Tim Larsen