May 31 2013
The Safety Net, a Bird is the Worm series which highlights outstanding older albums that may have flown under the radar when first released.
Wandering through my digital music library, I happened upon If Not For You, by the Gothenburg trio Our Park. I had scooped it up back when it was released in 2010, enjoyed it for a while, then with the avalanche of music that was later to come, it, like so many other decent albums, got lost in the crowd and began gathering (virtual) dust.
But now, returning to it nearly three years after I first picked it up, I find I’m enjoying it just as much as when I first heard it… maybe even more. The Our Park trio has an intoxicating blend of modern Nordic Jazz serenity and 1970s American Jazz groove. If Not For You is a modern piano trio recording that has both a fun bounce and a latent melancholia… an unusual combination that makes the foot tap happily to cerebral music.
Your album personnel: Fabian Kallerdahl (piano), Victor Furbacken (bass), and Chris Montgomery (drums).
Opening track “Jacmel” opens things up with an introspective mood, presenting one aspect of their music. Wistful phrases on piano drift in with the pitter patter of drums and the occasional grumble from bass. And while second track “Gron Gubbe” maintains the darkened skies tone of the opening track, the expressions of melody and the active rhythmic chatter draw out this album’s propensity for offering catchy, chipper tunes with underlying hints of sadness. Engaging, to be sure.
The tunes increasingly shed the darkened skies disposition for one of sunshine and lightness as the album progresses. “J.m” grins a bit wider, with Furbacken stretching up to higher registers on bass as Kallerdahl develops a nifty groove on piano.
“Tionde” disperses the melody across Montgomery’s rhythmic expanse, whereas on “Yeah yeah yeah,” the melody is carried away on the rhythm’s back. “Treenigheten” has the trio toying with slower tempos, building staggered tides of movement. “Mise En Place” is all about kicking things up and getting loud.
Additionally, they cover a couple Bob Dylan tunes, which adds an interesting layer to their already interesting blend of influences. On “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” (from Dylan’s Freewheelin’) they adopt the same skip and hop cadence Dylan picks out on guitar, but instead of the reserved tone of the original, the Our Park trio elicits a cheerful attitude throughout most of it, and only at the end do they slide gracefully into the original’s soulful demeanor. Conversely, on the other Dylan cover, “If Not For You,” from his New Morning, Our Park takes the original’s sunny disposition and speedy pace, and turns it into a slow dance with a hint of the melancholy.
Thankfully, neither Dylan rendition sounds beholden to the original, nor do they obliterate any reference to them… the trio take ownership of the tunes and present them in their own voice. That’s how it’s supposed to be done. Much can be said of their rendition of Weather Report’s “Black Market,” in which they choose to focus on melodic development than rhythmic entrenchment.
Overall, just a real nice album that shouldn’t get overlooked.
Released in 2010 on the Hoob Records label.
Jazz from the Gotherburg, Sweden scene.