Arild Andersen ‘Mira’ (ECM) 4/5

Arild AndersenThis is a trio with a difference. Double bassist and occasional dabbler in electronics Aril Andersen, hooked up with Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith and Italian drummer Paolo Vinaccia some six years ago. In 2008 they recorded a much fêted live album ‘Live in Belleville’ that won prizes with the specialist French jazz press (Jazz Mag and Jazzman) and was generally regarded as one of that year’s most impressive sets. In comparison with that release, the new studio recording is more laid back and contemplative with the odd hint of danger, but where ballads dominate proceedings. That, however, is no bad thing and the folk and blues influences are at times sumptuous and every bit as engaging as the more uptempo pieces. On an all but one original series of compositions, some of the more unusual combinations of instruments stand out. Smith deploys the Japanese shakuhachi flute to thrilling effect on the brief eastern-flavoured ‘Kangiten’, recalling the 1960s explorations of Yusef Lateef, which goes straight into the title track where the horn player switches back to his beloved tenor. The absence of any piano creates depth and space and with rolling bass lines, cascading drums and the selective use of electronica, there is more than enough going on to retain the listener’s attention throughout. This is illustrated on ‘Eight and more’ where bass and tenor engage in as duet while the inventive percussion work of Vinaccia keeps the music ticking over. On ‘Blussy’ blues inflections predominate while there is a warmth to ‘Le Saleya’ that cannot go unnoticed. An interesting take on Bacharach’s ‘Alfie’ soundtrack rounds off a very enjoyable exercise in the art of the trio. For those unaware of the leader’s track record, Andersen has in the past performed with the likes of Don Cherry and George Russell and was one of the earliest contributors to the label on the 1970s album ‘Afric Pepperbird’ that also featured a young Jan Garbarek. Tim Stenhouse