Helge Lien Trio
Ozella OZ070CD ****
(four out of five stars)
Helge Lien is one of Norway’s most accomplished pianists, stylistically broad, as he showed during his period as Silje Nergaard’s accompanist, he brought a personal vision into sharp focus with 2008’s Hello Troll and its follow up, 2010’s Natsukashii with Berg on bass and Knut Aalefjær on drums.
The less said about the experimental solo Kattenslager the better, but with a new drummer in the vastly experienced Per Oddvar Johansen plus the reliable Berg on bass on 2013’s Badgers and Other Beings a fresh chapter of his trio began. The album promised much for the future. Guzuguzu is the latest update on this “new” ensemble and is an album that seeks to express rather than impress. Lien’s intense, focused improvisations contrasted by the ease of his execution and evenness of touch creates a powerful duality that is underlined by a lyricism of the most compelling kind – you literally hang on to his every note. It is his most compelling statement to date, suggestive of his continuing artistic growth. From the pentatonic introduction to “Gorogoro” to allusions elsewhere on the album, inspiration seems to derive, like on Natsukashii, from Japanese culture but expressed through the prism on Lien’s musical personality. An impressive statement from an artist who continues to grow.