Christian Balvig, Frederick Bülow, Adrian Christensen ‘Associated With Water’ (AMP) 3/5

Scandinavian piano trios have become increasingly prominent in European jazz over the last twenty plus years, and this latest offering from Denmark, with Balvig in the central role of pianist, offers a good deal of promise. Denmark is a low-lying land surrounded by water and thus there is a natural preoccupation with water. This is the underlying inspiration for the album. The title track is actually quite bleak in tone, but reflective nonetheless and retains a dreamlike quality in spite of the faintest touch of the avant-garde and that is, perhaps, an aspect of their performance that they could develop further. The pieces as a whole are relatively short, with only two out of the eleven original trio compositions exceeding four minutes. Conciseness is a virtue, but in this case the compositions would benefit from a tad more depth, and this will probably come naturally as the trio become more confident in the studio and in live performance. By far the longest number is ‘Fictitious Conversations’, and this writer immediately warmed to the empathetic rapport between the trio members here and this is one example where lyrical simplicity and improvisational conversations come together in harmony. A staccato stop-start intro greets the listener on ‘Motor Neurons’, that thereafter slips into a more sedate tempo.

Folk-based or inspired pieces are a forte of Scandinavian piano trios going way back to the 1960s and this may just be a source that this new trio can draw upon in future album releases. While ‘Swedish’ displays some nifty brush work and a delicate piano solo intro, it is ‘Bulgaria’ that stands out with its Satie-esque beginning, lovely floating piano throughout and shuffling drum rhythms. Classical influences are apparent with both Debussy and Satie and twentieth century Romantic piano playing a leading role, while in terms of piano trios Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau spring to mind. Inventive bass and drums combine on the melodically repetitive ‘Disturbingly Pure’, with the most straightforward of piano motifs. A trio to chart the progress of in the near future.

Tim Stenhouse