Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Listen Trio - 20/09/2005, Brussels

Bendik Giske - ts, ss
Daniel herskedal - tba
Espen Berg - p

A noon concert, a concentrated 45-minute dose of music injected into the ordinary work-day, works wonders. Others take an extra cup of coffee. Or three.

The three young Norwegians won last year's Jazz Hoeilaart Competition and are in the closing stages of the resulting tour.

The trio immediately confirmed its origins: herskedal's "Norwegian Folk Tune," simple and melancholy. Berg displayed the light classical, lightly orchestral/contrapuntal, style that he would stick to, fruitfully, throughout the concert. On Sidney Bechet's "Petite Fleur" Giske stuck to tenor, but dipped liberally into the pre-war saxophonic exuberance bag. When he softly slap-tongued a beat behind Berg's trademark damp-one-string-and-play-around-it classical-funkisms, the old tune acquired an unexpected, yet unforced, air of modernity. They returned to that exuberance at the end of the concert, but it sprang from a different source: the Balkan brass band. In a few minutes they went from driving stomp to spacious dirge and quick, blurry soprano lines to raw-throated bellows.

The group has an immediately attractive attitude. "Dr. Waadelands Vals," dedicated to a conservatory professor who wrote a PhD. detailling a mathematical formulation of swing drumming, loaded the first beat with exagerated low-register drama, before snapping to attention with staccato quarter-notes on the last two beats. At one time they threatened to slip into a too-easy ballad of North European chamber jazz modernism, with too-exacting symmetry and a feel of a perpetual sigh of faux-despair, but Berg's solo pulled them out of that mood. Here and there, surprises slipped in: a line that ascended for a bar longer than expected, for example. Overall, it remained clever but light, with an interesting lack of interest for abstraction.

Lots of mp3s are available on Listen Trio's website.