Ayumi Tanaka Trio: Subaqueous Silence

The Japanese pianist, here in a minimalist local trio, discovered Norwegian music - and her own muse - on moving to Oslo


Japanese pianist Ayumi Tanaka first met her trio shortly after she arrived in Oslo some 10 years ago. Since then, the three have developed a musical language together, exploring the implications of Ayumi’s compositions. This is her debut ECM album, although she has twice recorded with fellow label artist Thomas Strønen, to great acclaim and has played with Christian Wallumrød and others.

It was a deep interest in the work of Norwegian improvisers that first brought Tanaka to Oslo, recognising that their musical language was very personal. She says: “I came to Norway to understand how this unique music evolved.” But alongside that voyage of discovery was a growing awareness of her own cultural roots, as can be heard here in the ascetic rigour of her playing, the sense of space and also poetry, the sounds of nature and more.

Hers is a sparse music, of pauses and silence, of considered statements and deep contemplation. Excepting the nine-minute title track, none of the pieces last much more than four minutes, for her brevity equals concision of thought and expression.

Throughout, the accompaniment is always delicate, drummer Per Oddvar Johansen often relying on just brushwork on the snare drum or a gently splashed cymbal, while bassist Christian Meaas Svendsen mixes restraint with more physical and textural exploration, notably on his strained, and strenuous arco solo in Black Rain and his high-register adventures on Towards The Sea.

I doubt ECM has ever produced a more minimal album, but this is a fine debut from a fascinating pianist.

Ruins; Black Rain; Ruins II; Ichi; Zephyr; Towards The Sea; Subaqueous Silence (34.33)
Tanaka (p); Christian Meaas Svendsen (b); Per Oddvar Johansen (d). Oslo, June 2019.
ECM 2675