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Trio ELF has never stayed within the perimeters of the classic jazz piano trio. Their debut album "ELF" (2006) explored the possibilities of playing drum & bass beats, which are usually produced electronically. They did it acoustically, with drums followed by piano textures that shifted from floating sensitivity, to gripping urgency, all this held together by minimalistic bass lines. Next came "746" (2008), "Elfland" (2010), "Amsterdam" and "ELF RMXD" (both recorded in 2013), "MusicBoxMusic" (2016), and "The Brazilian Album" (2018). Now, with "Fram", Trio Elf dares to advance even further into the realm of electronic dance music of course, as always, completely acoustic, with Walter Lang on Piano, Gerwin Eisenhauer on drums and Sebastian Gieck joining the two on double bass for the first time. The Norwegian word "Fram" can be translated as "ahead", and that's exactly the direction in which the eponymous opener marches. Immediately, on the first beat, it's all there. And you can take that literally, as the beat relentlessly drives the music forward. In between, Eisenhauer generates the finest sort of percussive patter, while Lang caresses the keys with a twelve-tone feel, only to find himself in a forest of pentatonic scales shortly afterwards, as he keeps in line with the musical goal, and Gieck marches in step. The painfully bittersweet "I Wonder" has a delicate ring to it, as its wistful melody floats away, and "Little Brother" is full of childlike amazement, before the music's driving elements reassert themselves in "Addicted". Here, there is an inescapable ruthlessness that every techno apologist would recognize; after all, these drum fills are enough to enflame the habit that underlies the title, while the piano feeds from the emotional depths. And then again, there's this tricky fiddling-around of Eisenhauer's, as Lang weaves his pianistic facades, while a subtle, delicate double bass rises above the finely spun dialogue. It all turns "Meditation in F-Minor" into a devotion transformed into sound. If there were a trap-set ballad genre, here it would be, in its purest form. By itself, Lang's knack for suspending the melody makes this piece the provisional album highlight. However, it cannot be fully enjoyed without the preparatory tracks. There is something almost baroque about the ostinato on "Half Moon Bay"; it's easy to lose oneself in the continuous repetition, until that moment when the drum beat gently reminds us that we are once again dealing with something very contemporary. On "An Ode to Bach", latent Baroque feel comes to light; for the first time, it meets up with flawless jazz-club jazz, creating some sort of indeterminate energy, and yes, something magical that normally can only occur during the trio's interaction with an audience. Trio ELF was able to transfer this magic to their live recording. A chromatic G to G sharp leads to the piano's C sharp minor chord, laying the foundation for the tension-laden "Nine Lines". Soon the drums, with an emphasis on the snare drum, takes over the lead one expects the murderer to be scurrying around the corner at any moment. It's the first Eisenhauer composition on an album whose pieces were predominately penned by Lang. On the other hand, with the second Eisenhauer composition, the accented "Not What", the Drunken Beats of his solo album "2019" can be heard, while over it all, a cornucopia of jazz club - or is it club jazz? cascades forth. Nice. But "What It Seems", Eisenhauer's third and last piece, is the absolute favorite. Like an atmospheric metronome celebrating something lost in dreams, the piano plays around a fractured F-minor chord. It is soon joined by dabs of a decelerated-sparse bass, and, later, an intoxicated set of drums, stuttering, staggering, and yet with frighteningly precise trkk-chkk-chk-chk-trkk-chkk -kkk breaths. The transition to "afterglow" is seamless it gives you that radiance that you often wish for - be it from your favorite song or some treasured moment all-too-seldom occurrences. What a perfect end to an album. The only problem is that once you have sampled Trio ELF's highly sensitive rhythms, rhythms that no computer on the planet could ever create, you will never want to listen to canned electronic dance music again.


  1. Name
  2. Fram
  3. I Wonder
  4. Little Brother
  5. Addicted
  6. Meditation In F Mi
  7. Halfmoon Bay
  8. An Ode To Bach
  9. Nine Lines
  10. Not What
  11. What It Seems
  12. Afterglow

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