The name of Grønseth’s fine quintet – all Norwegian apart from the English-born but long Norwegian-domiciled Powell and the Icelandic Scheving – signals admirable ambition.
Born in 1979, Grønseth – a compelling, dynamically aware player on all his instruments – came out of a classic post-Coltrane expressionist school of playing. He has built on the Indian and Middle Eastern influences one might associate with such an approach to cultivate a most thoughtful multivalence of approach, often working with bitonality and collaborating with such wide-ranging improvisers as the British pianists Matthew Bourne and David Skinner.
This music doesn’t sound like George Russell but it does remind me of Russell’s far-reaching blend of structural intelligence and expressive verve.
Inflation cultivates a poised albeit strong groove while the title track has a welcome contrapuntal touch or two of Kenny Wheeler’s melodically turned thoughtfulness to it. Alternative Timelines (When Henry Met Erik) marries to engagingly ruminative effect a baroque bass ostinato (Purcell) with spaced-out minimal modernist melody (Satie); Modal Realism builds from Berg’s meditative pianism to cultivate a yearning lyricism of multi-lined density and rhythmic thrust.
From the opening, subtly treated waltz figures of String Landscape to the rumbling baritone and percussion duo which begins the concluding, deeply meditative Dimensional Planes, this is music which engages brain and body, heart and mind alike, delivered with spot-on group interaction and dynamic finesse all round.
String Landscape; Theory Of Anything; Alternative Timelines (When Henry Met Erik); Inflation; Modal Realism; Dimensional Planes (42.10)
Grønseth (ts, ss, bar, bcl); Haydon Powell (t); Espen Berg (p); Audun Ellingsen (b); Einar Scheving (d, pc). Sparkle Sound Studios, Norway 12 & 15 December 2017.
Pling Music Pling 018