There aren´t many modern jazz trombonists in Norway today. I´m not sure if it´s because the instrument has a steep learning curve, or the fact that wicked tongues regard the instrument as the clown among the modern jazzinstruments. Either way it´s an instrument you seldom spot at jam sessions these days. However, one person you will find at a jam session, and a whole bunch of other places too, is Erik Johannessen. And his last recording “Inkblots” has turned out to be a really good album!
It´s a modern norwegian jazz album with obvious ties to the avantgarde jazz of the 60´s. But it´s way more melodic than what you normally associate with this kind of music, without breaking the ties to the avantgarde legacy. I´ve seldom heard a jazz album in this genre be so inviting and easy to go along with. The extended techniques that usually dominate this kind of music is toned down (they´re still there) to leave room for clear lines and a tasty and groovy band. So when Johannessen starts working with overtones all the way down in the pedaltone-range it sounds like a fresh effect and not “more of the same”.
In all the trio does mostly everything right, thick grooves is mixed with forthright free jazz in a natural way and the album as a whole has a nice progression and a natural duration. The music ranges from little “impro-techniques” via caribbean grooves to the gentle Bill Frisell song “Egg Radio”, from the classic album “Gone, just like a train”. On the latter they´re joined by “the other” modern trombonist in Norway, Øyvind Brække. He joins in on the last tracks on the album. Here you´ll find my personal highlight, “Whale Song Sing Along” a track that´s just as well played, and bordering on silly, as you´d hope a collaboration between talented trombonists with a background in free jazz could get.