STEN SANDELL TRIO
Oval. Intakt CD 122
Sten Sandell - on piano & voice, Johan Berthling on double-bass
and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums & percussion. Sten Sandell is a most
creative pianist who has worked with Mats Gustafsson in Gush, with Paal
Nilssen-Love in various projects, as well as with Evan Parker and Simon
Steensland. I am not very familiar with Johan Berthling, but he does
play with the LSB Trio according to the fine liner notes by Ken Vandermark.
Mr. Nilssen-Love is one of the most in-demand drummers in Europe, playing
in the Scorch Trio, The Thing, as well as various projects with Mr.
What got me about Sten Sandell's
piano playing was his audacity to play both the furious crescendos with
Gush [who were one of the most phenomenal live acts of the 90's] as
well as play straight new music, as he did on the outstanding "Music
from a Waterhole" [Alice Musik]. In between, he came up and formed
his own trio. Having a released a couple of records on the Norwegian
Sofa label, they've now attracted interest of the Swiss powerhouse imprint
Intakt. "Oval" sees them continuing on in a similar vein.
While bassist Johan Berthling is heavily involved in poignant arco moments,
Paal Nilssen-Love strikes up some interesting conversations with both
the leader and the bass player. While Nilssen-Love is in love with his
cymbals, playing it light and striking up perfect combinations of flurried
discourse on the percussion, it's Sandell who belongs at the helm. Proceeding
with individual dancing key strokes, through the furiously developed
climactic wallops, all the way to the percussive poundings with his
fists, this pianist is someone who is not keen to stick to any formulae.
I wouldn't think Sandell is all that comfortable with a label either.
Would you shuffle him into the Taylor camp just because he tends to
have those percussive moments, where he's racing head-to-head with Nilsson-Love?
Whenever a race comes about, there's no clear winner. These three are
never racing to reach any conclusion to see who's in charge of the session.
Rather, they're racing and twisting their own sets of skills for the
sheer thrill of the race itself. It's the game that's most exciting.
The resonance of each single keystroke that leaves the most lasting
impression on this listener. Each piece is credited to all members of
the trio and truly, this is improvised music as it should be - liberated
with a grand message from the leader. Nothing is forced and certainly,
it doesn't sound like any of this material was discussed prior to the
recording session. Now that a major player in the improvised music community
released this record, the future ahead is bright for Sandell. May this
communicate a sign of even greater projects for the years ahead.
Sten Sandell hat schon in
den vergangenen Jahren mit diesem Trio auf verschiedenen Festivals im
deutschsprachigen Raum für Aufsehen gesorgt. Der schwedische Pianist,
zu dessen Repertoire neben der freien Improvisation auch immer die zeitgenössische
Moderne von Cage bis Feldman, sowie die klassischen Musiktraditionen
Japans, lndiens oder auch Nordafrikas gehören, arbeitet sich mit
Johan Berthling, Bass, Paal Nilssen-Love, Schlagzeug, durch ein autonomes
Tongebirge voll abenteuerlicher Herausforderungen. Ohne jemals den Kontakt
untereinander zu verlieren und stets dem Moment der Interaktion verpflichtet,
durchpflügen die standhaften Skandinavier in freier Tonalität
die Klangmöglichkeiten eines Klaviertrios. Sie formulieren ein
musikatisch autonomes Bekenntnis zur Unabhängigkeit von schlichten
Trends und schnöden Moden und geben, so ganz nebenbei wie selbstverständlich,
eine Lehrstunde in Sachen streitbarer Individualität. Das Lineare
bekommt bei ihnen eine gravitätische Verschrobenheit und das Geheimnisvolle
eine pulsierende Direktheit."Oval" hebt Gegensätze auf
- um neue musikalische Fragen zu stellen.
Sten Sandell formed his piano
trio in 1999 with double bassist Johan Berthling and mighty drummer
Paal Nilssen-Love. Oval, their third CD, was recorded at Taktios Festival,
Zurich in June 2005. Sandell's experience extends from electroacoustics
to folk, and he's sensitive to oblique and enriching relationships between
sounds. He approaches the piano as a projector of colour, texture, mass,
movement, yet there's nothing murky or indefinite - indeed there's mineral
clarity to his attack. It doesn't lack thrust, but this is ultimately
non-linear improvisation, advancing and receding along other axes, deepening
through concentration, taking shape, dissolving and reshaping in an
expanded auditory field. Berthling and Nilssen-Love rise to that challenge,
supplying weight and shade and motion with sustained inventiveness and
without delimiting the field. A remarkable live performance.
Busy Chicago multi-reed man
Ken Vandermark suggests in his liner notes of Oval, the third release
by the Sten Sandell Trio, that the Swedish pianist and composer may
represent the future of the piano in contemporary and improvised music.
Like other pianists of his generation, Sandell is influenced by the
innovations of Cecil Taylor but brings many more ingredients to his
music, such as the theories of John Cage and Morton Feldman, classical
musical elements from India and Japan, folk music from Sweden, electronics,
voice, and an idiosyncratic approach to the piano that often uses extended
percussive timbral capabilities.
Recorded at a Swiss music
festival, the music performed by this estimable trio must have given
the audience its money’s worth, while offering the mind’s
eye a hodgepodge of slanted perspectives. Pianist Sten Sandell and his
rhythm section largely, reside in an analogous musical plane here.
Recorded at the annual Taktlos
Festival in Zürich, the music birthed on Oval is barely a year
old. It’s that sort of attention to exigency that distinguishes
the Intakt label’s commitment to its artists. Pianist Sten Sandell
no doubt appreciates the patronage, as the performance captured is one
of his finest on recent record. Divided into three comparably sized
parts, the title suite covers a lot of ground in the span of three-quarters
of an hour. A percussive emphasis conjures superficial comparisons to
Cecil, but Sandell’s approach is markedly apart. His digits deal
in dynamics and repetition, his left hand sketching out rumbling pedal-weighted
chords that are more charcoal than pencil point while the right perforates
with stabbing single notes. He’ll hammer a staggered progression
to the point of bruising near-tedium, pulling back in the nick of time
and darting off in a different direction. Occasional forays under the
hood also vary the action, with strings strummed, dampened and plucked
like the tightly wound strands of a massive Aeolian zither.
The third album by Swedish
pianist Sten Sandell with his regular trio -- drummer Paal Nilssen-Love
and bassist Johan Berthling -- is a roiling blast of free improvisation.
Tensions between the players constantly shift, and the motion of the
music as a whole swings from static and suspenseful to blisteringly
hard driving. Sandell, perhaps best known as Mats Gustafsson's bandmate
in Gush, is particularly interested in microtones -- an odd obsession
for a guy who plays a tempered instrument. In the past he's added organ
or harmonium and taught himself to throat sing, all in an attempt to
create the illusion that he's playing between the notes, and on Oval
he uses several techniques in combination to create a similar effect:
whanging on the keys in an all-out physical attack, manipulating the
foot pedals, damping strings or otherwise tinkering inside the piano,
and playing odd harmonies with Berthling. Sandell favors low-end rumbling,
and the rest of the trio shares his love for bass -- which makes his
right-hand figures leap out like the flash of a razor.
Dans le déploiement
des forces, dans ces clusters sans âges, l'on pense à Cecil
Taylor. Dans cette opposition entre extrêmes graves et extrêmes
aigus, l'on pense à Cordon Nancarrow. Dans l'écoute et
la bienveillance à l'autre, on pense à Irène Schweizer.
Une fois ces balises repérées, le jazzkritic peut, à
loisir, reprendre l'écoute d'un trio qui n'a pas la langue dam