Killing Pain, Not Time: Arild Andersen Trio Live Report

I find it difficult to begin any review about Arild Andersen without billing him simply as a “Norwegian bassist.” Succinct though the term may be, it hardly hints at the far reach of his fingertips, bow, and musical vision. A packed house felt some of that reach in the distance he’d so graciously traveled to bring his latest outfit to this year’s Rochester Jazz Fest as part of its “Nordic Jazz Now” series. While the cover of the Fest’s concert guide sported a collage of big names, headlined by Elvis Costello, Natalie Cole, k.d. lang and the like (ECM mainstay Bill Frisell could be found lurking among them), Andersen’s visage was nowhere to be found. Thankfully, this did nothing to deter an appreciative crowd from basking his warmth.

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Ron Netsky, The City

Bassist Arild Andersen’s trio, in the Scandinavian series at the Lutheran Church, had an entirely different approach, using bass, saxophone, and drums to create evocative aural soundscapes. One way they did this was to take unusual approaches to their instruments.

Andersen demonstrated his considerable skill at traditional jazz bass, plucking the strings, but some of his most unusual sounds were created by bowing unconventionally and, at one point, by looping and layering his sounds electronically. Saxophonist Tommy Smith, who was capable of gorgeous melodies and late-Coltrane abstractions in the same line, aimed mostly to the upper register to contrast nicely with Andersen’s bass. And drummer Paolo Vinaccia was the most subtle percussionist I’ve heard at the festival in its 10 years. He used mallets and brushes — even whiskbrooms! — but never picked up a drum stick.

Greg Bell

First trio down, I headed over to the Nordic Jazz Now series at the Reformation Lutheran Church for the Arild Anderson Trio. With Tommy Smith on saxophone counterpointing Anderson’s inventive bass playing—adding electronic effects and bowing in creating the soundscapes. Drummer Paolo Vinaccia was an amazing and also inventive percussionist, never once using drum sticks, but creating his own sounds with mallets and brushes (and as Ron Netsky pointed out in City, what appeared to be small hand brooms (I was in the balcony, so couldn’t see them well enough to be sure). These three artists were each amazing musicians and Arildsen’s music was beautiful.

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