The Eivind Austad Trio has spent the past 15 years working out on the Norwegian jazz scene, particularly in Bergen, which is apparently Norway’s jazz hotbed. (Good to know, should I ever make it to my ancestral homeland!) Their debut album is now out on the notable German label Ozella, and Moving is a winner.
When you hear “jazz” and “piano” and “Norway,” you may expect contemporary Euro-jazz like I did, but the Austad trio plays pretty much straight-ahead American-style jazz. Austad gets compared to the likes of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, and both are valid, based on this recording. But take a listen to “Homeland,” the third track on Moving, and see if you don’t also hear a lot of Vince Guaraldi’s influence.
Still, starting from the top with “Two Of Mine,” we have a lovely ballad to introduce the band. Austad has a nuanced, nicely colored touch at the keyboard, Magne Thormodsæter a melodic and syncopated style on the double bass that reminds me of Ron Carter, and drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen has a lovely touch with the brushes on the cymbals that just might draw from Jack DeJohnette.
The trio’s American influences are explicit on the two finishing tracks. On Cole Porter’s “All Of You” Austad’s connection to Jarrett couldn’t be clearer, as he favors but doesn’t slavishly copy Keith’s rendition on the ECM live release Standards in Norway from 1989. It has a similar spirit but is approached in a more stately manner. And the closer, David Bowie’s “Life On Mars,” takes a more melodic and straight-ahead approach than the Bad Plus’s cover. Austad’s lullaby-like arrangement draws out the song’s bittersweet overtones, and although it was recorded before Bowie’s passing, stands as a beautiful elegy. This tune was first released on the Ozella compilation The Magic & The Mystery Of The Piano Trio.
Those two initially caught my attention on this disc, but the real highlight, it soon became clear, is “In The End.” “This has to be a song from a modern Broadway musical, or a jazz arrangement of a pop song,” I thought. But no, it’s a sublimely melodic and catchy Austad original, an eight-bar blues with lovely piano voicings, a catchily syncopated bass line and subtly driving cymbal-snare work. Austad turns in some exciting improvisations, and the whole thing is full of tension and grace.
Here’s a live version of “In The End”.
Moving is a very promising debut from this solid and intuitive trio.