Vein: Our Roots

Classically trained Swiss piano trio improvise, jazz-wise, on material derived from such as Scriabin, Stravinsky, Bartok and Mussorgsky

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The Swiss jazz trio Vein have generated something of a cult following through their highly distinctive compositions and skilful musicianship. Previous recordings of theirs such as The Chamber Music Effect (2016), Vein Plays Ravel (2018) and Symphonic Bop (2019) have been inspired by classical music. So too is Our Roots, their eighth album, in which seven classical pieces are given the trio’s characteristic jazz revamp.

The reason they’re so good at doing this is that all three members have extensive jazz pedigrees and are classically trained to boot. Michael Arbenz studied classical piano in Basel. Double bassist Thomas Lähns studied classical music in Basel as well and when he’s not playing jazz, he delivers classical solo performances across Europe and South America. Florian Arbenz (Michael’s brother) is a classically trained percussionist with extensive international orchestral experience.

All pieces on the album have been arranged by the band members – three each from the brothers Arbenz and one from Lähns. Unlike many trios where one member is “in charge”, musical leadership is shared equally. The opening number, Luce, is rooted in a piece by Alexander Scriabin. Restless is based on Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. Next is Dal, stemming from Bartok, and then we have a reworking of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the form of Beat-O-VEIN. The Lovely Image is a ballad which re-explores Mozart’s aria from The Magic Flute. This is followed by Betting Angel, based on Henze’s Concerto For Double Bass with superb arco playing from Lähns. The album closes with On The Underground Road, a revision of Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Vein perform on a number of occasions and have always been highly impressed. This is classical chamber music unlike any you might have heard before, delivered with the excitement and energy of jazz improvisation at its most polished.

Discography
Luce; Restless; Dal; This is Beat-O-VEIN; The Lovely Image; Betting Angel; On The Underground Road (44.31)
Michael Arbenz (p); Thomas Lähns (b); Florian Arbenz (d). Basel, December 2020.