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Reviewers: Tony Augarde, Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Painting Music

ACT 9891-2 [54:29]


Carsten Dahl (piano): Nils Bo Davidsen (bass): Stefan Pasborg (drums)

Recorded 2019, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Sailing With No Wind

All The Things You Are

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Jeg gik mig ud en sommerdag

Bluesy In Different Ways


Be My Love

You And The Night And The Music

Blue In Green

Autumn Leaves

This twelve-track album, almost all of which consists of standards, marks the latest staging post in this experienced trio’s progress. The painterly theme is made explicit by a photograph of the pianist in the gatefold sleeve, his fingers caked in blue paint and by the use of Carsten Dahl’s own painting called The Violinist as cover art. Not only does he have excellent piano chops, but he is also an artist.

Dahl is a fluid and inventive improviser, the trio’s own co-composition Sailing with No Wind, which opens the album, encouraging simplicity and refinement in its opening and closing panels but percussion wash and interplay in the central section. It also serves to alert the listener that Dahl has a tendency to hum along with his playing, à la Jarrett. There are similarly fine things to be heard in a number that’s, in effect, a Bop Anthem All the Things You Are; there are interesting substitutions and harmonies, locking grooves, a strong bass solo, brief drum solo, and a generally clever and articulate approach to playing around the theme.

The trio takes a slow and reflective, possibly even melancholic look at Somewhere over the Rainbow and there’s a textually full Danish folk song to follow, one that has some pellucid voicings but more of those Jarrett-like vocalizings from the leader that, frankly, I could well do without. The better part of Dahl’s playing here seems to suggest some influence from Ethan Iverson and there are some Eastern turns of phrase in Solar, one of two Miles Davis pieces in the album, as well as big chording and plenty of attitude – which includes more vocal squawking.

Much better, for me, is Nicholas Brodszky’s beautiful ballad Be My Love with its lovely reflective postlude and the supple reworking of Arthur Schwartz’s You and the Night and the Music where the allusive playing never loses sight or sound of the original harmonies and chordal structure but where terse flurries and a blues lope, to end the journey, give great life to the reading. The fine distribution of solos and textures on the closer, Autumn Leaves, is accompanied by varied dynamics and the merest hints of the Baroque. When the trio is on this kind of form – and to be fair that means fairly often – it really is a force to be reckoned with.

Others may take to Dahl’s vocal squirms rather more than I do and find them the summation of his physical connection with the music. He is certainly primus inter pares but this is nonetheless a cohesive and successful trio album by some of the smartest players in Europe.

Jonathan Woolf

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