Trøen-Arnesen Quartet – Tread Lightly (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 56:05 minutes | 685 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Losen Records
It is not uncommon in improvisational music to see the melody primarily as a point of departure for musicians’ solos. But obviously, melodies have a power of their own. Playing a melody, letting it shine in its own right, takes skills. These skills are featured on this album. The quartet, Elisabeth Lid Trøen (saxophone and flute), Dag Arnesen (piano), Ole Marius Sandberg (bass), and Sigurd Steinkopf (drums), consistently demonstrates a number of melodic strategies to highly different results. The compositions establish melodic material, often lyrical, but even more important is how the musicians seamlessly moves from melodies to improvisation and back again, insisting on the melodies to carry the output.
On “Flirt” there is an echo of folk music, together with an ostinato. It is not folkloristic, but use a lyricism also found in folk music, giving the musicians a sense of direction. Something similar is heard on “Partysvensken,” but in addition the latter works with layers of instruments. The piano drops out during parts of the saxophone solo, then gradually reenters with tiny figures and counter-lines; the bass and drums disappear, and the piano figures become more embellished, highlighting how the quartet co-create the collective sound rather than focusing on individual musicians. “Just Thinking” is, in a sense, a daring composition. The melodic material could, in less accomplished musicians’ hands, have been banal, but given the strong explorations of melody the song still works.
“Sarah’s Bounce” begins march-like, and the drums drive much of the dynamic dimensions of the composition. In addition to dynamics, Steinkopf demonstrates that drummers also can have a melodic approach. Trøen’s sax and Arneson’s piano are complementing each other, so that any difference between soloist and accompaniment is beside the point. On “Feline Dreams” the tiniest musical motif opens the song, and is unfolded first in piano, and then with addition of bass and drums, hinting of a potentially endless unfolding. From there different melodies in counterpoint with each other demonstrate yet another layer of melodic playing. Another strategy is employed on “Armadillo Dance” where the musicians engage different pulses at the same time, from where melodic motifs develop.
“Interlid” is a lyrical ballad, with a low register dominating in the flute, a register working nicely together with the bass. Playing with register and tone is another characteristics of “Tread Lightly.” Trøen uses different qualities of tone as a sonorous dimension, the registers becoming an aesthetic material. On “I Remember This,” Arnesen sounds almost to restrain himself in the solo, insisting on a slow feeling. Here melody appears in contrast to a kind of virtuosity, demonstrating the musical power of melody and feeling rather than so-called technique. “Denne” sounds almost nocturnal, as a reflection upon a long day. Melodic development and chords belong together, but at the same time establish contrasting dimensions. Throughout the album, then, we as listeners are given a master-class in melodic thinking. (Erik Steinskog February 2021)
01. Trøen-Arnesen Quartet – Flirt (05:22)
02. Trøen-Arnesen Quartet – Partysvensken (05:50)
03. Trøen-Arnesen Quartet – Just Thinking (05:57)
04. Trøen-Arnesen Quartet – Sarah’s Bounce (05:21)
05. Trøen-Arnesen Quartet – Feline Dreams (04:40)
06. Trøen-Arnesen Quartet – Armadillo Dance (06:20)
07. Trøen-Arnesen Quartet – Interlid (04:40)
08. Trøen-Arnesen Quartet – Tread Lightly (05:57)
09. Trøen-Arnesen Quartet – I Remember This (06:57)
10. Trøen-Arnesen Quartet – Denne (04:58)