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.
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.
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.
Recordings of Beethoven's Triple Concerto, Op. 56, by a piano trio rather than by a group of virtuosi (a configuration that almost always misunderstands the work) are not abundant. Still rarer are those like the present release by the Storioni Trio, a Dutch group that takes its name from the maker of the 1790s instrument played by the violinist (and strung, like the viola, with gut strings). Pianist Bart van de Roer plays an 1815 Lagasse fortepiano. This recording is part of a series devoted to Beethoven's piano trios, but the Triple Concerto actually is more comfortable in those surroundings than when forced to keep company with the likes of the Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61.
The quality of Chet Baker's product was so varied during the last decade or more of his life that recording sessions varied markedly. For this "remixed version" of Mr. B Baker sounds a tad tired, though his chops are in fine form. The studio recording captures the trumpeter with highly sympathetic and self-effacing pianist Michel Grallier and bassist Ricardo Del Fra, both of whom engage in the leader's brand of sensitivity. There are no vocals by the trumpeter, but plenty of improvising. The interesting tune selection features a few songs played often by Baker (such as Wayne Shorter's "Dolphin Dance" and Horace Silver's "Strollin'"), but several that are not associated with him at all (Grallier's "White Blues" and his gorgeous "Father X-mas," to name a couple). There is a sadness permeating the trumpeter's sound throughout, exacerbated by the lazy, sometimes sluggish, tempos. A deep and touching beauty can be felt, marking this as one of Chet's best from the period.