I very much enjoyed the Icelander Bjarni’s previous quintet release Tenging [Connection] which I reviewed in November 2019. Here, the personnel remains the same, likewise the sleeve-note contributor, Adrian Pallant.
Pallant has the title track as Travelling Birds: I prefer Migratory Birds and have used that in the track list below, but otherwise I’ve been grateful to draw upon his translations of the original Icelandic titles. Pallant also offers a helpful track-by track range of musical characterisation and insight, some of which I draw upon below.
To a bop or, especially, a hard-bop mind, on first hearing the music might come across as but another slice of Nordic noodling. But Pallant rightly notes, for example, the “melodic hooks and spatial improvisations” of the opening Translation and both the “aqueous explorations” and “spiky chromaticism” of Bjarni’s pianism; the shifts from 3/4 to 4/4 time in That Is, as well as the “subliminal” inspiration of folk tunes and Turkish music in the initial, pensive parts of Distortion Of Daybreak, plus the subsequent organic shift from an emergent, trumpet-led crescendo to the multi-faceted transition which concludes in what Pallant calls “the piano’s graceful slow waltz”.
So there is much to reward attention here. It is the triple dialectic of measured meditation, assertive albeit tempered affirmation and a pellucid, sometimes piquant tenderness which marks much of this finely wrought music: hear Knowing Without Knowing, To Fly and The Blue Sky. I was especially taken by Estonian electric guitarist Merje Kägu’s judicious touches of rippling atmospherics, but the essence of this music lies in its open yet beautifully attuned and structured group awareness and interplay.
Translation; Distortion Of Daybreak; That Is; When Holiday Really Begins; Migratory Birds; Knowing Without Knowing; To Fly; The Blue Sky; Mother Angel (51.04)
Bjarni (p); Jakob Eri Myhre (t); Merje Kägu (elg); Daniel Andersson (b); Tore Ljøkelsøy (d). Osnabrück, October 2021.