Dec 13 2012
Moskus, a young trio presenting their debut with Salmesykkel, is one such album. I was enthusiastic enough about it to make the album my Find of the Week in a recent eMusic Jazz Picks article (a designation that typically goes to debut albums or ones tragically under-the-radar), but I was pretty set on just eventually including it on Bird is the Worm as a Tiny Review… with not much additional comment than what I wrote for eMusic, other than album details and some audio.
But the more I listened, the more the album connected with me. I can’t rave about this album like it’s the greatest thing ever, but I do, however, find myself listening to it repeatedly. And of the album’s fourth track, “Når det regne på presten dryp det på klokkarn,” I find myself humming the melody to myself when there’s no music on in the room. Salmesykkel kind of got its hooks in me. They’re subtle hooks, but no less affecting.
Your album personnel: Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson (acoustic bass), Anja Lauvdal (piano), and Hans Hulbækmo (drums).
Some of these tracks give a whiff of the avant-gospel buoyancy of Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet recordings from the 70s, both on the Impulse Records label, but also some of those under-recognized gems on the Atlantic and Wounded Bird labels. In this, however, that particular sound from the past is blended with the moody Scandinavian Jazz sound of the present. I’m not comfortable stating that a trend has been established, but I am noticing that I’m referencing those Jarrett albums a lot lately in modern jazz reviews. In the past year, I can recall also mentioning them for albums by the Kit Downes Trio and the Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio, in which they added their own regional qualities to the music (UK and Icelandic, respectively). This could be a coincidence, and hopefully it doesn’t reflect a deficit in my own abilities as a music writer to frame modern music in the context of the music of the past. But part of Jazz’s stability as an institution is its respect of its heritage and the roots of the music that has come before. I’d consider it a good sign of things to come if modern jazz musicians, especially those not based in the U.S., were turning their gaze upon Jarrett’s American Quartet recordings.
But let’s talk more specifically about the music of Salmesykkel…
The album opens with the title-track, a free jazz within a gospel groove reminiscent of the aforementioned Keith Jarrett American Quartet. Lauvdal’s piano sounding, at times, disconnected from the rhythm section, but then they hit meeting points where it all comes together, and bring the realization that they were never apart in the first place. Another track that fits in that mold is “Farlig norsk hengebru,” which has a lively bounce. Dietrichson’s bass is the silent partner, but the real shaker and mover in this song. Hulbækmo lays down some nifty stick work that keeps the chatter friendly. “Bibelbeltet” also touches upon that sound. It’s a short musing on piano that’s slightly optimistic.
“Når det regne på presten dryp det på klokkarn,” brings the album more into the Scandinavian Jazz sound, though the chord progression as stated on piano keeps a toe in Jarrett’s territory. A surging current batters the melody, but when the rhythm recedes, and piano re-states the melody with a simple chord progression, it’s so damn joyful, though melancholy in its way… sort of how uplifting the sunrise can be after a long sad night.
The second half of the album gets much quieter, and recedes further into that modern sound. “Dagen derpå og veien tellbaksjatt” is the sound of gently falling rain… distant percussion, metallic screeching like a rusted roof, bass the rhythm’s dark shadow, and piano soft and infrequent. “Creperie de Marie” has a flailing rhythm section pulling against the gravitational pull of slowly orbiting piano chords. “Ville Vesten” is a contemplative ballad, letting just a little bit of soul filter out into the sunlight. “Snorres Saga” is a wispish tune, barely offering form or shape.
The album ends with the track titled “Moskus.” It has a processional finality to it, a slow march off into the sunset, one deliberate step after the other.
Those slow deliberate steps aren’t that far removed from how this music makes its connection, carried on the back of subtle joy and restrained buoyancy. Just real nice stuff here.
Released on the Hubro Music label.
Jazz from the Trondheim, Norway scene.