ESPEN ERIKSEN TRIO WITH ANDY SHEPPARD-PERFECTLY UNHAPPY.
Espen Eriksen Trio With Andy Sheppard-Perfectly Unhappy.
Label: Rune Grammofon.
Since the Espen Eriksen Trio was formed in 2007, they’ve toured Europe and headed as far afield as the Far East where they’ve introduced audiences to the music on their first three critically acclaimed albums. Recently, though, three albums became four with the release Perfectly Unhappy, on Rune Grammofon, which features the Espen Eriksen Trio With Andy Sheppard.
The addition of the veteran tenor saxophonist Andy Sheppard adds a new dimension to the Espen Eriksen Trio’s music on their much-anticipated fourth album Perfectly Unhappy. However, this isn’t the first time that Andy Sheppard has worked with the Espen Eriksen Trio. They invited Andy Sheppard to make a guest appearance when they played a concert in London in 2016. Since then, the Espen Eriksen Trio and Andy Sheppard have toured Korea and Norway, and recorded the eight tracks that became Perfectly Unhappy. It’s the latest chapter in the story of the Espen Eriksen Trio who have been making music together for eleven years.
It was back in 2007, when pianist Espen Eriksen, drummer Andreas Bye and double bassist Lars Tormod Jenset formed the Espen Eriksen Trio. Initially, the nascent Espen Eriksen Trio concentrated on honing their sound, before making their first tentative steps onto the vibrant local live scene.
Before long, the Espen Eriksen Trio were a popular draw, and had established a loyal following with their unique brand of melodic and understated jazz. This was the sound that the Espen Eriksen Trio would eventually showcase on their debut album.
You Had Me At Goodbye.
Nearly three years after the Espen Eriksen Trio was founded, they had signed to Rune Grammofon, and were preparing to release their eagerly awaited debut album. This was You Had Me At Goodbye, which was released to plaudits and praise on the ‘5th’ of April 2010. You Had Me At Goodbye was an album of understated, melodic and memorable music where beauty was omnipresent from the opening bars of Anthem to the closing notes of To Whom It May Concern. The success of You Had Me At Goodbye launched the Espen Eriksen Trio’s career, and critics and record buyers awaited their sophomore album with interest.
What Took You So Long.
Two years later, the Espen Eriksen Trio returned on the ‘13th’ of April 2012, with their sophomore album What Took You So Long. It was released to critical acclaim, with critics praising what was another melodic album of minimalist and sometimes, mournful but beautiful music. Just like You Had Me At Goodbye, the Espen Eriksen Trio continue with their less is more approach on What Took You So Long and eschew the sonic trickery and sleight of hand that many bands relied on. This wasn’t the way the Espen Eriksen Trio made music. Instead, the What Took You So Long featured this talented triumvirate at the peak of the powers.
After releasing What Took You So Long, the Espen Eriksen Trio continued to tour their native Norway, but began to play in other parts of Europe. What Took You So Long had introduced the Espen Eriksen Trio’s music to a wider audience and their popularity was starting to grow.
Never Ending January.
Three-and-a-half years later, and the Espen Eriksen Trio returned with their third album Never Ending January, which was released on the ‘9th’ of October 2015 to critical acclaim. Just like on their two previous albums, The Espen Eriksen Trio continued to plough their own furrow on Never Ending January, as they made music their own way. This meant the less is more approach to making music that had served them so well. That was the case on Never Ending January, where the music was spartan and understated, but also beautiful, melodic and sometimes ruminative. Never Ending January marked the triumphant return of the Espen Eriksen Trio, whose star was in the ascendancy.
With three critically acclaimed albums to their name, it was no surprise that the Espen Eriksen Trio embarked upon one of the busiest periods of their career at home and abroad. During this period, they continued to tour their native Norway, playing clubs and jazz festivals including the Jazz Festival, in Oslo, Jazzfestival, Maijazz and Vossajazz. The Espen Eriksen Trio also played all over Europe, including Germany, Switzerland and Russia, where they were invited to play at the Jazz Province Festival. There was also an invite to the Penang Jazz Festival, which was one of several concerts that that the Espen Eriksen Trio played in Malaysia. However, it was a concert in London that resulted in the Espen Eriksen Trio’s fourth album Perfectly Unhappy.
The members of the Espen Eriksen Trio all admired the work of tenor saxophonist Andy Sheppard, who has enjoyed a successful career that has spanned four decades. During that period, he’s worked with everyone from George Russell and Gil Evans and Carla Bley, and has also released a string of commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums. Andy Sheppard was also an artist that the Espen Eriksen Trio wanted to worked with.
The chance arose in 2016, when the Espen Eriksen Trio were booked to play a concert in London, and invited Andy Sheppard to join them on-stage. Two years later, and Andy Sheppard remembers the first time he took to the stage with the Espen Eriksen Trio: “I knew from the first time I heard the trio play that I would fit right in. I loved the melodic sense and vibe and was thrilled when I was invited to guest with the trio in London in 2016.”
The concert in London in 2016, was the first of several collaborations between the Espen Eriksen Trio and Andy Sheppard. They embarked upon a tour of Norway and after that, toured Korea which. This was the latest successful collaboration between the Espen Eriksen Trio and Andy Sheppard, whose tenor saxophone was adding a new dimension to the Trio’s music.
So much so, that when Espen Eriksen began to write new material for the Trio’s fourth album Perfectly Unhappy, he wrote parts for Andy Sheppard’s tenor saxophone. Eventually, Espen Eriksen had written eight new compositions which were recorded in the Norwegian capital Oslo, and became Perfectly Unhappy.
Opening Perfectly Unhappy is the cinematic sounding Above The Horizon, where a dreamy, crystalline piano is augmented by an understated double bass. Soon, Andy Sheppard’s rasping saxophone soars above the arrangement, but doesn’t overpower the Espen Eriksen Trio. By then, the drums have joined the double bass and continue with their less is more approach. So does Andy Sheppard’s sultry saxophone which is the perfect foil to Espen Eriksen’s piano, as the two become yin and yang. They briefly play with power adding a degree of drama, before playing with subtlety. Still, the arrangement to this beautiful, melodic and dreamy track floats along, soaring high Above The Horizon. As it does, it showcases the combined talents of the Espen Eriksen Trio With Andy Sheppard.
Straight away, there’s a melancholy sound to 1974 as the piano takes centre-stage and is accompanied by the rhythm section who provide an understated backdrop. Equally understated and melancholy is Andy Sheppard’s saxophone as he plays his part in the slow and ruminative arrangement. When the saxophone drops out, Espen Eriksen’s piano takes centre-stage and he’s accompanied by the rest of the Trio who add to the beauty and sense of melancholia. Later, Andy Sheppard’s soul-baring saxophone adds the finishing touch to this heart-wrenching composition where beauty is omnipresent.
The piano led introduction to Perfectly Unhappy sounds as if it’s taken from the soundtrack to a French movie from the sixties or early seventies. There’s a sense sadness from the get-go during this filmic track that is rich in imagery. Especially when the rasping saxophone is added and joins forces with the understated piano. They play leading roles as the arrangement meanders along, revealing a rueful and ruminative sound. That is still the case when the saxophone drops out and the piano takes centre-stage. Later, the saxophone returns and adds to the cinematic sound and the sense of sadness in this beautiful, poignant track.
The Espen Eriksen Trio plays as one on the hopeful sounding Indian Summer, where the piano takes centre-stage. Soon, it’s joined by the saxophone which is the perfect addition and adds to the sense of hope as this melodic track meanders along revealing its secrets and beauty which is omnipresent. Again, Espen Eriksen’s piano and Andy Sheppard’s sultry saxophone play starring roles in Indian Summer’s romantic late-night sound and is one of the highlights of Perfectly Unhappy.
Espen Eriksen plays big, bold block chords on the piano as Suburban Folk Song unfolds while the rhythm section provide an understated accompaniment. Soon, the saxophone enters and provides a contrast to the piano. Andy Sheppard eschews power as his rasping saxophone soars above the arrangement. Later, it’s replaced by the piano which is played with newfound freedom as flows along and the rhythm section accompany Espen Eriksen. He briefly stabs at the piano adding deliberate chords before playing with a freedom. Latterly the music becomes understated, slow, spacious and thoughtful after five enchanting minutes.
From the opening bars of Naked Trees, there’s a filmic sound, which sounds as if it belongs on the soundtrack to a movie from the sixties or early seventies. There’s also melancholy sound as the piano is takes centre-stage and is augmented by the rhythm section. Soon, Andy Sheppard’s saxophone is added and the arrangement ebbs and flows gradually revealing its secrets. What follows is a filmic track which is a mixture of melancholy, hope and beauty that is rich in imagery.
As the piano opens Revisited, it’s accompanied by the rhythm section before the saxophone enters. Just like so many of the tracks that feature on Perfectly Unhappy, the saxophone provides the perfect accompaniment to the Espen Eriksen Trio. The saxophone is played with the subtlety that one expects to find on an Espen Eriksen Trio album. However, sometimes, Andy Sheppard opens the throttle and his rasping braying saxophone soars above Espen Eriksen’s piano which is played with freedom and fluidity, while the rhythm section provide the heartbeat to this joyous and uplifting track.
Home closes Perfectly Unhappy and finds Espen Eriksen’s piano and Andy Sheppard’s saxophone combining with the understated rhythm section to create a ruminative, filmic sound. Midway through the track, the saxophone drops out, and Espen Eriksen’s piano is accompanied by the bass, and together they’re responsible for a rueful, melancholy, emotive and cinematic sounding track that is closes the album on a resounding high.
Just a year after Espen Eriksen Trio first took to the stage with Andy Sheppard in London 2016, they headed into the studio to record an album together. That album was Perfectly Unhappy which was recently released by Rune Grammofon, and is musical marriage made marriage in heaven.
Perfectly Unhappy features the Espen Eriksen Trio’s trademark understated sound where less is always more. At the heart of this sound is Espen Eriksen’s piano, which played a leading role on their three previous albums. It’s a similar case on Perfectly Unhappy where Andy Sheppard’s saxophone costars with Espen Eriksen’s piano and is the final piece of this musical jigsaw.
Indeed, Andy Sheppard’s saxophone is yin to Espen Eriksen Trio’s yang on Perfectly Unhappy which is a near flawless album of contemporary jazz that veers between cinematic and filmic to melancholy, rueful and ruminative to emotive, joyous and uplifting that is also smooth and soulful. The addition of Andy Sheppard adds a new dimension to the Espen Eriksen Trio’s music on Perfectly Unhappy which is a career-defining album.
Espen Eriksen Trio With Andy Sheppard-Perfectly Unhappy.