Some beautiful piano here, with just the right back up from the rest of the jazz trio  

Label: ECM Touchstones
Time: 9 tracks / 53 mins

There is a wonderful interview with Spinal Tap on the web, where they make the comment, “Jazz is mistakes; you’re playing a song wrong... it’s a lot of wrong notes.”

The Triangle is a safe-enough title for a jazz trio and the music reflects this. Averaging about six minutes each and creating a languid mood, the tracks here are the sort of relaxed and fluid outings that Spinal Tap were thinking of, where improvisation runs free and plenty of black notes get an outing.

This is my third and final recommendation from the ECM label’s fifty Touchstones releases to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary this year.

Others were bassist Eberhard Weber’s magnificently creative and luxuriant The Following Morning and the classical jazz of Jan Garbarek and Art Lande’s piano-based Red Lanta. While I have not reviewed it, I also have more than a soft spot for John Abercrombie's delicious Night, featuring an all-star cast of Jan Hammer, Jack DeJohnette and Mike Brecker. (Try Youtubing Hammer’s “Ethereggae,” where they successfully combine jazz, rock and reggae in one gloriously original eight minute piece.)

Technically, this is an album by bassist Arild Andersen “with” pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos and drummer John Marshall, but this is definitely a group effort; indeed most compositions are by the pianist (alongside a group improv and three by the bassist).

While some trio albums can sound like a long spell of noodling, this one – recorded in 2003 – has a healthy balance of improvisation and distinctive themes, such as the ascending notes of the opener “Straight” and several melodic pieces.

Tsabropoulos, who has a classical background, has also arranged a beautifully wistful version of Ravel’s “Pavane,” in which Arildsen’s double bass plays sensitively off the pianist. It may be this background that adds some precision to his style and form to his composition, but his classical history never dilutes the freedom of his playing.

“Simple Thoughts” is a contemplative piano-based piece, beautiful and serene, a mood continued by its successor, “Prism.”

For all the disc’s gentleness, there is a brief upbeat burst with “Lines,” which has a touch of the Keith Jarretts to the piano, but nothing at all messy or angular.

The nearest this album gets to that is the group composition “European Triangle,” which starts with a prowling piano left hand and develops into a more skittering piece. By contrast, it’s followed up by the very dreamy “Cinderella Song.”

The three players balance well; while the composers generally feature more fully in their own pieces, Andersen refuses to hog the centre and this is a true team effort.

Derek Walker
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