Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Urs Bollhalder Trio, Eventide

I suspect that because the piano was my very first instrument, beginning at age four, and because my mom did her best to produce on our piano her own versions of music now thought of as part of the great American songbook, but back then just the songs she grew up hearing, a crack piano trio stirs me greately. I still remember my mom searching by ear for the right chord to a note in the melody, practically running the gamut of every possible group of tones until she found just the right one, and how maybe that opened me up aurally. It occurs to me now that within all her searchings there were many she rejected that had in microcosm the sophisticated substitutional harmonic language that the later tonal schools of jazz piano embraces, exemplified of course by Bill Evans, but of course by many others before and after. It stretched my ears and helped make me receptive to the music I was to hear and love later on.

So with all that in mind it is somewhat natural that what pianist Urs Bollhalder and his trio do would give me something that I would respond to instinctively. They certainly give me much to listen to closely and appreciate on their new one Eventide (MGB Jazz 15). They are a Swiss-based gathering of real merit. Urs is the pianist, Heiri Kanzig is the contrabassist, and Kevin Chesholm is on drums. According to the liners they first began playing as a trio in 2010, and by now they have all the subtlety of interactive trios that one could hope for in the music.

Eventide thematically directs us to the sea and its infinite possibilities, in what seems to be an all-original set (Bollhalder's music?) that gives all involved plenty of opportunity to express themselves.

Bollhalder is a beautiful exponent of tonal-harmonic jazz piano with his own way, with clear roots in the Evans-and-beyond school and the fully three-way trio interactions that only can come about when of course the bassist and drummer are fully developed and mutually attuned. Kanzig is a bassist with a highly evolved musical sense and an ability to articulate beautifully the options available to him within the rhythmic-harmonic-melodic possibilities both latent in the compositions and present in what Bollhalder and Chesham are doing in any moment. Kevin Chesham is just right for the trio as well, with big ears, the ability to swing understatedly and inventively and to color the music with his cymbal-drum pronouncements.

And then there is Uri. He is a player of extremely well-developed sensibility, taking the substantial originals and filling them out with beautiful voicings and advanced lines that swing modernly and have very inventive generative qualities.

There is something familiar to the music, in that it is firmly within the modern trio tradition, yet you do not hear the influences that go into the music as much as you hear the syntheses that Urs and the band make of them, and their injection of themselves and their own original inspirations.

Bollhalder is a fine player, a pianist of importance, as are the trio members all on their respective instruments. The music is ravishing. Here's one you will not want to miss if you love the art of piano trio jazz. My mom would have loved this. Outstandingly well done! Encore!

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