Eyolf Dale: The Wayfarers

Modal meandering meets melancholy march in set from Norwegian piano trio whose leader has been bravely compared to Chopin recast as jazzman

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Inspired by journeys through Norway’s landscape, the Eyolf Dale trio is a completely integrated piano, bass and drum unit. The leader is a strong, percussive soloist who is shadowed faithfully throughout this programme by the bass and drum team.

The title tune is a medium-tempo swirl through improvised piano lines that change in mood and tempo. Woodland Walk begins with chomping drums with a more lyrical piano line rising slowly. This track is slow and stately although it does have a short, percussive interlude where piano and drums rise up to the occasion.

Hidden Treasures is a slow ballad with Dale spinning out delicate piano lines against a strong bass line and restrained drumming. Zanussi’s bass solo is accompanied by the piano. Behind The Curtains is an uptempo exercise with all three players swinging merrily.

This is an interesting release as it changes mood and tempo frequently on all tracks and the trio always works as a unit with no one player taking a solo without backing of some kind. Bass and drum solos grow organically out of the themes of these pieces. As one instrument takes solo spotlight the other two accompany him.

Dale plays piano with occasional snippets of celesta and hammerspinet. Bass and drums are fully involved in every track. Last but not least, the sound recording here is excellent with a natural clarity and balance on each instrument. Sound recording engineers, please copy.

Discography
The Wayfarer; Woodland Walk; Hidden Treasures; Behind The Curtains; A Current Peace Of Mind; After The Party; A Blacksmith’s Tale; The Sky At Sunset; Fields Of Kyiv; The Homestead (42.39)
Dale (p, hammerspinet, celesta); Per Zanussi (b); Audun Kleive (d), Oslo Concert Hall, 22-24 March 2022.
Edition 1212


Matty Bannond adds more commentary on The Wayfarer:

Travelling to gigs and connecting with audiences feels different after two years of pandemic-related restrictions. To get to grips with that unfamiliar feeling, Norwegian pianist Eyolf Dale has created an album exploring the ups, downs, lefts and rights of touring the world again. It’s a wide-eyed and often tentative record, cautiously testing the ground before each onward step.

The Wayfarers is a trio album with Dale joined by Per Zanussi on bass and Audun Kleive on drums. The loose compositions blend jazz with elements from classical and folk traditions. Ideas are examined by generating moods and atmospheres rather than rigid melodic frameworks. Many tracks feel uncertain or hesitant. The musicians speak their minds without telling the listener what to think.

Two moods coalesce on the title track, which opens the album. Rippling piano patterns and skittish percussion evoke a sense of nervous anticipation, perhaps portraying raised heartbeats at the start of a journey. But there are spooky passages too that add a ghostly air of trepidation.

Behind The Curtains stands out as an exception among Dale’s careful compositions. This piece is faster, more hectic. Improvisations are much freer and there is less time for introspection. Kleive whips the drumkit and Zanussi delivers a bouncing bassline. There is shortness of breath here. It could be panic. It could be euphoria. It could be both.

Thoughts are given space to bubble up and float away on The Wayfarers. Eyolf Dale and his two companions take the listener on a journey marked by open landscapes and patient progress. While sometimes watchful, it is always truthful and never lacking momentum. Instead, this is an intimate album that takes a beautifully scenic route. A good trip. An adventure. A spiritual pilgrimage.