Jan 14 2013
Following on the success of his 2011 release The Big Picture, Jacob Karlzon brings his trio back into the recording studio for More, and continues to solidify his status as one of the vanguards of the New Piano Trio sound, as pioneered by the Esbjorn Svensson Trio.
The album title More is terribly on point, for not only is Karlzon’s latest recording a fine continuation of what came previously, he offers it in much greater abundance.
Your album personnel: Jacob Karlzon (piano, keyboards, synthesizer, programming), Hans Andersson (bass), and Jonas Holgersson (drums).
The album opens with “Running,” aptly named, as the tune begins at breakneck speed and doesn’t let up off the gas pedal. And, really, it continues for much of the album. Where The Big Picture had an ebb and flow between tension and explosion, More is a series of fireworks that explode dramatically one album track at a time.
The use of effects is more prodigious on More than it was on The Big Picture. I’ve commented previously that Karlzon is one of the primary torchbearers of Esbjorn Svensson’s New Piano Trio sound, and much like Svensson on later recordings such as Leucocyte, on More, Karlzon treats the effects like incendiary devices, setting off one conflagration after the other. On a track like the heavy-octane “Dirty,” it begins with sizzling distortion that blooms into anthemic piano choppy and ends with synthesizers adding dramatic harmonies. “Departure” is also heavy with the effects, possessing a pounding dance rhythm that’s easy to enjoy, but negates much of Karlzon’s natural elegance on keys.
Considering that Karlzon’s trio is pretty effective at eliciting dramatic tension with their plain ol’ instruments, I’m not sure how much any of that is needed. On the other hand, these are nifty tunes easy to bounce along to, so it’s hard to level any criticism at music that is, in fact, enjoyable. Even tunes like second track “Nilha,” which has the whiff of restraint with some understated drumming by Holgersson and basswork by Andersson that seems to want to glide more than dash, ultimately scoots along with Karlzon leading the way on keys.
Karlzon lets off the gas pedal for the alluring “Between Us.” Effects are the pulse of a beating heart and the burn of it breaking. The composition gives the musicians some room to breathe, and it displays Karlzon’s strong talent for exploring simple yet powerful melodies. As the tune draws to an end, the effects grow stronger and start to swirl about the trio. Karlzon switches to keys, which puts different schemes of light in play. And though the song grows in intensity, it drifts weightlessly away. Very reminiscent of what made The Big Picture so strong.
“Epiphany” goes even further driving this point home. The trio’s ability to create thick clouds of harmony over which they skip melodies like stones across the water, it effectuates a dreamy atmosphere while remaining inexhaustibly dynamic. Speaking of dynamic, “The Riddle” is one of those tunes that builds up to a strong gait while giving the impression of flying swiftly just a few inches off the ground. The sense of flight derived from what boils down to a rhythmic exercise is the kind of interaction-in-flux that makes much of Karlzon’s music so captivating.
A track like “Fool’s Gold” is Karlzon’s trio at their strongest. Karlzon can do so much with jaunty piano phrases as he polishes off yet another immaculate melody. And the rhythmic accompaniment he adds to the enchanting bass solo by Andersson and brushwork by Holgersson could coax an infant to sleep. This is the kind of song that separates Karlzon from the crowd. Engaging, yet so damn catchy.
The album ends with “Rhododendron Rites,” a solo piano piece that sounds a bit out of place when considering the bombast of the entire album that preceded it. However, it does provide a nice comedown from More‘s excitement, and it’s also worth noting that he also ended The Big Picture with a solo piano piece (“At the End Of the Day”), so this might just be his thing. On general principle, I think it’s a nice way to go out.
Released on the ACT Music label.
Jazz from the Gothenburg, Sweden scene.
Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.
Read my review of Karlzon’s previous release The Big Picture –> LINK