Sigurd Hole Trio ‘Encounters’ LP/CD/DIG (Elvesang) 4/5

Having firmly established himself as one of Norway’s most sought after bass players, Sigurd Hole has put together a somewhat unlikely threesome for his debut release in a trio setting. Bassist and composer Hole is joined by veteran drummer Jarle Vespestad and young violinist Hakon Aase. Bass, drums and violin are certainly not the usual instruments for a trio outing, but here they gel beautifully to create a Nordic/Middle Eastern flavour, rich in heritage and inspiring in purpose.

Hole has performed with some of the finest musicians in Norway, most notably with pianist Tord Gustavsen, saxophonist Trygve Seim, pianist Bugge Wesseltoft, and folk singer Eli Storbekken. And it is the Norwegian folk traditions that are brought to the fore on this recording. With inspiration from Indian and Arabic folk traditions added into the bassist’s consciousness, the resulting music takes the listener on a memorable and creative journey.

The opening track “Red Sky” pairs Hole’s bowed bass with Aase’s violin as they add colour and textures to the dramatic drums. Their landscape is multi-faceted as the violinist moves freely as if above the clouds, speaking his own language as he observes what goes on around him. The music feels like a genuine magical adventure, where the skills of the musicians allow contemplation and thoughtfulness to encourage intuitive interplay.

The percussive nature of the drumming blends wonderfully with the string instruments, “No Clouds” being a prime example of how well Vespestad creates a groove and unique energy, the bedrock from which the bass and violin dance both individually and in glorious unification.

The playful nature of “Old Branches” is both joyous and melancholic at once, highlighting the juxtaposed feelings one can experience when listening to this music. The creative flow of energy is earthy and natural, and one gets the impression that the three musicians share a wavelength that takes them out of the comfort zone and into that place where new and inspiring ideas freely flow from their hearts and minds.

The richly melodic “Pilgrimage” is perhaps the best example of how an East-meets-West musical excursion can work so well. This piece is meditative in essence, yet also emotive and uplifting, blending together borderless folk traditions and improvisation in a beautiful and creative way.

Whilst listening to “Encounters”, I couldn’t help being reminded of John Maclaughlin’s Shakti. This trio share that same sense of freedom and inventiveness, and that has to bode well for the future.

Mike Gates