Espen Eriksen Trio ‘End of Summer’ LP/CD (Rune Grammofon) 4/5

Last year, way before any kind of pandemic and the subsequent lockdown was even on the horizon, I travelled to Leeds Jazz Festival to see the Espen Eriksen Trio perform with saxophonist Andy Sheppard. The concert followed the release of their excellent Rune Grammofon collaboration “Perfectly Unhappy”, and I still remember the gig very fondly. The album itself was wonderful, yet seeing and hearing it in a live setting was even better. Eriksen has a wonderful charisma on stage… with good humour and banter exchanged between him and Sheppard. It serves as yet another reminder of what we’re missing in life at the moment. “End of Summer” was recorded in Oslo this April during the lockdown. After getting all their concerts cancelled due to the pandemic, the pianist says it was very inspiring to still be able to meet in a recording studio to make new music and keep it all alive. This is their first recording solely as a trio for five years.

As always with Eriksen’s music, the tunes on End of Summer are beautifully balanced, with a sparse, Nordic lyrical quality shining through. Delicate folk tunes blend seamlessly with sensitive jazz melodies to create an unhurried, charming and captivating album. The trio combines in an almost hypnotic way, obviously benefiting from their ten years together on the road and in the studio. One might describe the trio’s music as somewhere between the “less-is-more” atmosphere of a Tord Gustavsen album, and the deeper, more adventurous music of Bobo Stenson. The reflective nature of the music will spark such comparisons, yet there is an originality and an honesty to Eriksen’s writing that makes it a fully immersive listening experience.

The album opens with “Where the river runs”, reminiscent perhaps of a latter-day Nordic Jan Garbarek piece. Beautifully written, its poise and melodic openness allow us to drift downwind with the river, taking in the luscious surroundings along the way. The natural flow continues with the lyrical “Back to base”, its Keith Jarrett European Quartet influences sparkling like a sun rising above the rippling waters of a gently flowing river. “Dancing Demons” lets out an omnipresent energy that emanates from the trio’s intuitive playing. The title track has more of a Latin feel to it, with Eriksen’s melancholic, suspenseful touch taking the listener to a long-forgotten sunset bathed in its own reflection. The yearningly gorgeous “Transparent Darkness” sounds like a piece you might have heard somewhere before… a distant memory revisiting the mind. “A long way from home” could be an anthem for our troubled times, and the aptly titled “Reminiscence” closes the album with an emotion that conveys a certain sadness, yet with an uplifting hope that prevails.

“End of Summer” is another lovely, heart-warming album from Eriksen’s trio. Thoughtful and contemplative, laced with melodic adventure and lyrical subtlety, it’s definitely one of those albums to just sit back and drift away to wherever the music takes you.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard ‘Perfectly Unhappy’ LP/CD (Rune Grammofon) 4/5