Rantala Danielsson Erskine How Long Is Now?
(ACT 9823-2. CD Review by Peter Jones)
The jazz piano trio holds a special place in most people’s affections. Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala, Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson and American drummer Peter Erskine have recorded an album of 13 short tracks whose linking factor is a relaxed, upbeat mood – warmth, if you will. The emphasis is on simple melody, particularly noticeable on the title track, and if that sounds like the sort of thing that could send serious jazz fans tut-tutting from the room, well, hold on just a minute: there is something fresh and uplifting about this music. It isn’t about minimalism, it’s about optimism. (If you prefer your Nordic minimalism without optimism, there’s always Tord Gustavson – whom I very much admire and enjoy, by the way). The point is, this lot are way past needing to show off their chops – although these are clearly in evidence on such demanding tunes as Assisi Consequently How Long Is Now? is the sort of album that even non-jazz fans should enjoy.
Erskine, who can kick ass with the best of them, is on musically light duties, often involving the delicate use of shakers or tambourines. Danielsson shines on the double bass, highlights including the eastern-sounding intro to his own composition Taksim By Night (Taksim is in Istanbul), and his solo on the beautiful Trust, where a subtle reverb effect adds just enough mystery.
On Jimi Hendrix’s ballad Little Wing, Rantala slowly builds on the drama of the melody, punctuating it with an ascending scale. Erskine’s Each Breath is the sort of tune Abdullah Ibrahim might write – light, melodic, uncluttered, driven by an insistent tom-tom rhythm, and garnished with another great solo from Danielsson.
Although Rantala has written most of the tunes, J.S. Bach has kindly contributed the Kyrie from his Mass in B Minor – a glance back to one of Rantala’s formative influences: the boys’ choir he sang with at the age of seven. And it sounds gorgeous, reminding us that the classics are there to be plundered by the jazz piano trio, as David Rees-Williams has proved.
After two tunes inspired by the Finn’s two sons Bruno and Topi – the latter demonstrating what a muscular, rhythmic pianist Iiro Rantala is – things are wrapped up with Danielsson’s sweet, introspective Choral.
A lovely album. Play it in the morning and set yourself up for the day.