Trolls, after all, are mythical creatures from Nordic mythology, and Nordic mythology of pre-Christian times has been a prominent theme among Scandinavian extreme metal bands. One of Finland's best-known metal bands, in fact, is named Finntroll. But Hello Troll has nothing to do with metal. The focus of Norwegian pianist Helge Lien is straight-ahead post-bop jazz, and on Hello Troll, he embraces the time-honored acoustic piano trio format (Frode Berg is on upright bass, Knut Aalefaer on drums). Over the years, that format has been successful for a wide variety of acoustic jazz pianists ranging from Erroll Garner to Cecil Taylor to Red Garland; it also works well for Lien, who favors a clean-sounding post-bop pianism along the lines of Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Ahmad Jamal.
Helge Lien Trio: Natsukashii So, what do you do when you've won, amongst other accolades, the 2008 DnBNor Musicians Award and a Norwegian Grammy Award for Best Jazz Album of 2009? Well, if you're Helge Lien and the album is Hello Troll (Ozella, 2008), you just keep on keepin' on—in this fine pianist's case, continuing to hone the trio that's been his primary focus since What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life (Curling Legs, 2001). With the unfortunate dissolution of Esbjorn Svensson, following the pianist Esbjorn Svensson's tragic death in 2008, there's a bit of a gaping hole in the realm of young European piano trios achieving greater international acclaim.
To The Little Radio, which features interpretations of standards, and Live, which is based mostly on Lien originals, both present the trio on strong form. The 11 non-original pieces explored on this disc were recorded in Oslo last January, and showcase the trio's collective approach to standards. On the first piece, Lasse Färnlöf's "Grandfather's Waltz," Lien's harmonies reference Bill Evans' version. Jerome Kern's "Look For The Silver Lining" and Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" foreground the trio's by now intuitive interplay and, though minimalist, get deep into the essence of the melodies.
This album is quite unusual. Recorded shortly after Nat King Cole's death, pianist Oscar Peterson takes vocals on all but one of the dozen selections, sounding almost exactly like Cole. Peterson, who rarely ever sang, is very effective on the well-rounded program, whether being backed by a big band (arranged by Manny Albam) on half of the selections or re-creating both the spirit of the Nat King Cole Trio and his own group of the late '50s during a reunion with guitarist Herb Ellis and bassist Ray Brown.