New Simplicity Trio ‘Common Spaces’ CD/DIG (Babel Label) 5/5

The avowed intent of New Simplicity Trio is to place an emphasis on groove and melody. The Trio intends their tunes to be memorable and capable of being whistled and hummed.

The ‘simplicity’ is that of melody and harmony. Things not always apparent in the music of their contemporaries. The trio consists of Bruno Heinen on piano, Henrik Jensen on bass and Antonio Fusco at the drums. The Trio have been in existence since 2014 and since then have honed their craft in live performance. There seems to be no one individual who could be called a leader. The group interplay is something akin to that of the great Bill Evans trio with Scott La Faro and Paul Motian. Their interplay also brings to mind the music of the wonderful Peter Erskine Trio with John Taylor on the piano stool. All of the members of the trio contribute compositions. Having mentioned the more obvious musical reference points, it seems clear that they have managed to forge an original group voice. Something that is very difficult to do in the seemingly over crowded world of the contemporary jazz trio.

Interestingly, Heinen showed his affinity with the music of Bill Evans on an earlier release ‘Postcard to Bill Evans’. The music appeals on different levels. Perhaps as polite background music, but this is to do the music a disservice, as repeated listening reveal, somewhat counter-intuitively, hidden depths to the music. The listener might fall into the trap of thinking that this might be cool, uninvolving music. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is some quite involving and high spirited soloing on offer throughout the album. Don’t confuse simplicity with being uninvolving. There are actually plenty of complex passages to enjoy.

The opening track ‘Groovy’ is well-named but it also has a sort of off kilter funkiness, before settling into a slightly more rhapsodic mode for a time and then the intensity slowly builds, giving way to an accomplished and quite lengthy drum solo. In contrast ‘Riccardo’s Room’ opens with a delicate riff from the bassist, before piano and drums join in a delicate dialogue. This is a true musical earworm of a tune. ‘Around Milan’ is a wonderfully introspective theme. Again played with great delicacy by the pianist. Then around two minutes in bass and drums are there supporting and commenting on the pianists statements. Jensen provides a magnificently sonorous solo. ‘Across the Pond’ follows in similar mood and is, for me, the most outstanding piece on the album, bringing to mind the best of the more introspective European jazz trios currently in vogue.

There is so much to enjoy that it is difficult to draw attention to all of the highlights, such as the masterful bass playing on ‘Orient Express’. On this piece, as on several of the other pieces, I’m reminded of the early work of pianist Howard Riley. Perhaps in the way that both Riley and Heinen seem to tread the path between melody and abstraction.

The album concludes with ‘The Seagull’ where the trio seem to be having lots of fun in a tango-like performance. Fusco is particularly outstanding here. All but one of the ten tracks come from within the trio. The exception is a very individual reading of Mingus’s ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’. The musicians clearly love what they are doing and their enjoyment and good humour are evident throughout the album. Check this one out. You won’t be disappointed.

Alan Musson