Nikolaj Hess – “Trio”


Nikolaj Hess - "Trio"Trio, by Nikolaj Hess, is one of those albums that illustrates just how much room there is to maneuver within small spaces.  This piano trio keeps the music wound up tight, letting its evocative nature emanate from within.  The softer side of this album prevails, even when the tempo rises up a bit.  The tranquility is established right from the start, and it informs every tune thereafter.

It doesn’t stray very far from those first notes.  It’s a contained peacefulness, kept close to the album’s heart.  And yet, despite keeping close to the heart of things, the combination of strong melodies and a rhythmic approach that tinkers with tempo like a clockmaker altering the stream of time with his stopwatch, this trio offers up a dynamic set of tunes, where the big differences are reflected in the small details.

Your album personnel:  Nikolaj Hess (piano), Tony Scherr (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums).

The trio opens with a Bob Dylan cover, the first of two on this album.  On “Make You Feel My Love,” the trio expresses all the heartfelt sentiment of the original, but delivers it with a lullaby tranquility that sets the tone for this vibrant recording.

“Black and White” is a melancholy tune expressed with the patience of a setting sun.  On the other hand, “Masters of War,” the other Dylan cover, is an up-tempo piece that has Scherr walking his bass up and down flights of stairs while pianist Hess chooses to slide down the bannisters, instead.

“Impro” is a brief section of skittering piano notes, kicked up by tiny gusts of rhythm.

“Sept 2010” has a pleasantly simple melody that the trio takes for an equally pleasant stroll through the park.  “Kontra,” on the other hand, presents a melody of greater complexity, but finds a way to state it with an embraceable simplicity to match the song previous.  The strong melodic construction continues on “Social Club,” though this time Wollesen and Scherr slip in a little groove to shepherd the melody along.

The chipper rendition of Ellington’s “Cottontail” instills an upbeat charm upon the recording, extending the borders of the album’s range of expression without blurring its tight focus.  And this is proven by the way the trio slips right into the quiet murmur of “Bridge,” a progression that sounds natural and almost expected.

The album ends, first, with the boisterous “Wind,” a track that sets up the melancholy finale of “Stille Hjerte, Sol Går Ned,” a peaceful tune with the old soul of a folk song and the warmth of a fireplace glow.

Just a beautiful album.

Released on Gateway Music.

It appears that you can stream much of the album on Hess’s artist site, found HERE.  A smart idea, because the more of this recording the listener hears, the more they’re going to feel compelled to purchase it.

Jazz from the Denmark and NYC scenes.

Available at:  Amazon MP3| Gateway Store (CD)