Europeans love Jazz. There are an endless number of festivals and each city and town seems to have its central venue for jazz lovers. I’m not sure what the jazz scene is like in Norway, but the wonderful Helge Lien Trio is a splendid advertisement.
As Audiophilia has grown over the years, so has the number of CDs that arrive at the office. So many, I must admit that I cannot remember what distributor sent the CD under review. I would like to thank them. Natsukashii is the name of Norwegian pianist Helge Lien’s latest album (Natsukashii is Japanese for Nostalgia) — I do remember it came in a set of four CDs, each from Euro-based groups. The other three were pretty forgettable, but this CD is a gem.
The CD works for both lovers of interesting, melodic jazz and audiophiles. All the compositions are by Helge Lien and are a mixture of up tempo numbers and ballads. What I find interesting is the integration of the trio’s instruments. They are the antithesis to Oscar and Bill’s seminal trios — the piano is definitely front and center (and spread wide ever the soundstage) but the drums and bass act as colour splashes, not driving the rhythm specifically. It’s a unique style I’ve not heard before. And, when Lien holds back and his partners solo, they shine, too.
The recording from Oslo’s Rainbow Studios (Jan Erik, engineer) is a masterpiece. The subtle sounds from the drums and bass will really test your system’s resolving power. Lien’s piano tone is magical and the recording captures it. Be advised, this CD will not show of its best on generic stereos or computer listening (although the Trio’s musicality will shine under most circumstances) — to hear the best of this CD, use a resolving, high end system or very good headphones. If you’ve got access to such kit, buy this musical and audiophile demonstration CD.
Helge Lien, piano
Frode Berg, bass
Knut Aalefjær, drums
Ozella OZ 036 CD
Playing time: 52:17
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