Badgers and Other Beings
The Helge Lien Trio, with Badgers and Other Beings, as a unit circumnavigate the searching piano of Helge Lien, sustaining a mood throughout the ten tracks, each morphing seamlessly into the other.
Mor and Joe consolidate the laid back tempo of the recording, with the latter embellished by a terrific solo by Frode Berg on bass; from the beginning you know you are in the company of a superb trio, with the subtle percussion of Per Oddvar Johansen connecting the bass and the piano.
Around for 14 years, the Helge Lien Trio had a change in personnel in 2013 when Knut Aalefjaer sought pastures new, and was replaced by Johansen: Badgers and Other Beings is the first recording of the new trio, which has a loyal fan base in their native Norway, Japan and Germany.
Johansen had to fill big shoes, as Aalefjaer was a long term mooring for the trio, with steady beats and endless innovation, contributing handsomely to the Helge Lien Trio sound, not surprisingly defined by Lien’s instinctive composure. The pianist, and this comes across evidently on Early Bird and Hoggormen, has carved his own distinguishable niche in chamber jazz, with what he refers to as ‘harmonically complex’ tone colours.
Previous recordings, specifically Hello Troll and Kattenslager (Lien solo) bear testimony to his range, again all released by Ozella Music, whose recordings are based on a single premise: musicians are encouraged to express their musical idiosyncrasies.
So far, so promising.
On this CD, one of the shortest tracks, Knut, is a beautiful demonstration of Helge Lien Trio’s tone colours: Berg and Johansen keep their fingers on the pulse, allowing Lien to make something extraordinary out of the ordinary, whilst anchoring his flight.
With classic-impressionistic patterns and rhythmical-melodic jazz, their resourcefulness is fathomless, and Badger’s Lullaby is a good example of the influence of Bill Evans’s lyrical power and the melancholy of Esbjorn Svensson on Lien.
If you have seven minutes to spare, try The New Black, a change in mood from what has gone before, but revealing of Lien at his most cinematic, the striving for the epic, but more Brad Mehldau than Evans. Helge Lien doing Radiohead’s Exit Music (for a Film), now there’s a thought.