Downbeat July 2014 | Badgers and other beings

Norway’s Helge Lien Trio is a mirror back to America of what the jazz-piano trio has sounded like over the decades, full of rumination, romance but also some bite.

The trio’s third release for Ozella suggests an underlying narrative that’s less “Stardust” and more roving star. “Mor” opens the set with something akin to what one might have heard from Keith Jarrett in the late 1970s—minus horns—with a dash of Esbjörn Svensson. Both “Joe” and the dream- like “Hvalen” avoid a swing feel for more of a danceable, free-flow rhythm, a mattress that the music tosses and turns on, full of chords and flowing gestures—restless without being pointless.

Veterans all, composer-pianist Helge Lien, bassist Frode Berg and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen are clearly of one mind. There’s a patience to these tunes that coincides with an underlying, undefinable unease, the combination a subtle fascination. “Hoggormen” sports a deft left-hand chordal movement from Lien that keeps you listening for what’s coming next in this soft tumbler of a rocking funk tune that threat- ens to but never boils over. Solo spots throughout

this CD—the poetic “Badger’s Lullaby” is a perfect example—keep us listening to everyone, again the accent being on a trio and not just one voice, the piano at its center.

—John Ephland
(four stars)