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MusicNorth East & YorkshireReview

Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Espen Eriksen is the epitome of a Norwegian jazz musician, building a spacey acoustic around his Steinway, concentrating his efforts on his own compositions, never far from the songs of his homeland. The resulting music, with his excellent trio and British sax star Andy Sheppard, is beguiling and endlessly melodic, but after a while you feel like a change from his mid-tempo lyricism.

Typically Sheppard stated the melody – straight smooth sax playing – before Eriksen and he embarked on extended solos, resulting in lengthy numbers, something like seven in 80 minutes before a short brooding encore. Eriksen’s solos range from the appealingly simple to the elaborately rhapsodic, often in the same solo.

All four members echo each other perfectly: it comes as no surprise that the trio has operated without changes of personnel since 2007. Bassist Lars Tormod Jenset is in the great tradition of Scandinavian double bass players, using it as a melody instrument and getting unexpected effects when playing with a bow. Andreas Bye is the ever-attentive drummer. As for Sheppard, he has been working with the group since 2016 and merges effortlessly into their sound.

Even if tunes do tend to stray into the same familiar territory, there are treats along the way, the second piece from their next album (is the working title really 6.5?) a delightful melody that hovers between a Christmas carol and the theme to a television detective series. Then comes 1974, perhaps the most memorable number of the evening. Following Sheppard’s statement of the theme, we almost start again, Eriksen’s piano accompanied by Jenset’s arco bass, then building and building with Bye and Sheppard gradually joining the party. The only comparable number is “In the Mountains”, with Sheppard’s tenor for once departing from its customary melodic flair in riveting shrieks and with the bass and drums again backing the piano and sax in an almost imperceptible climax.

With Andy Sheppard in supreme form, Espen Eriksen producing a stream of melody and Lars Tormod Jenset and Andreas Bye perfectly in touch with each other and with Eriksen, it might seem churlish to complain of a lack of variety – but that’s the way it is…

Reviewed on 26th November 2022.

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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