By John Sharpe
For the debut of his new trio, Belgian-born, Oslo-based pianist Jonas Cambien joins with two rising stars of the Norwegian scene for a series of incisive cuts notable for their inventive arrangements and maverick rhythms. Drummer Andreas Wildhagen is part of Paal Nilssen-Love‘s Large Unit and may not be known to many, but on this showing that is likely to change, while reedman Andre Roligheten performs with Friends & Neighbors and Gard Nilssen, making a strong appearance on the drummer’s Firehouse (Clean Feed, 2016).
Although the format echoes the mid-1960s unit of Cecil Taylor, and subsequently Alexander von Schlippenbach’s longstanding threesome with Evan Parker, the results could not be more different. Whereas those esteemed outfits major on long form outpourings, Cambien delivers ten tracks, of which only one exceeds the five-minute mark, where improvisation thrives in the nooks and crannies of the charts.
While the leader’s focus is on structural contributions such as ostinatos and counterpoint, sometimes using preparations to his piano, which further his compositional aims, both Wildhagen and Roligheten take a more wide ranging approach. Their individual expression manifests in brief excursions from the mainline duties. In addition they broaden their instrumental palettes with the result that the group’s sound often belies its size.
Wildhagen in particular constitutes a dominant presence with his everything-but-the-kitchen-sink clatter which combines unusual colors and textures in a lurching momentum which rarely explicitly states the beat. Roligheten uses a range of reeds to put across the script, but is always quick to exploit any opportunities that emerge, with his breathy bass clarinet and explosive tenor.
Cambien packs a lot into each track, with ideas boiled down to their essence rather than explored at leisure. Mysterious soundscapes, such as “Gulf” and “Helium” with their isolated piano strikes, cymbal scrapes and drifing susurrations, contrast with determinedly offkilter constructs such as Wildhagen’s “Clap” with its threeway staccato attack, and more tuneful numbers like the two interpretations of the sprightly “Times.”
At their best the interlocking beats, nagging vamps and snatched extemporizations combine in a heady brew. That’s the case in the surging excitement of “We The King” and also the extended “We The People” where cross rhythms and countermelodies break open for Roligheten’s simultaneous two reed claxon and spiraling soprano outbursts.
Cambien’s fierce intent has yielded impressive results and many will be looking forward to his next move.