By John Ephland | Published February 2017
An unlikely union, 3 Pianos brings together kindred spirits with a shared aesthetic that betrays convention. Japanese pianist Ayumi Tanaka, Swedish pianist Johan Lindvall and Norwegian jazz pianist Christian Wallumrod (all now based in Norway) manage to play as if one piano were in the recording studio. The results are at times fascinating when they aren’t charming or outright playful.
The trio approaches the piano as a sound source with a particular timbral range, not as a conventional rhythm instrument. In fact, pulse is almost buried throughout the seven pieces of composed and improvised music. And while the album dispenses with theme, melody, tempo and any sense of formalism, there are minute variations—intermittent repetitions, with sustained moods inside each selection. In general, the moods tend to be of a serene, floating nature with the occasional spunky, more percussive approach.
That said, the three pianists exhibit incredible restraint, patience and a deep listening as one track leads into another. Harmonics and glissandi permeate “34” and “33,” the pianists sharing spritely counterpoint, bell-like tones, contrasting dynamics and gentle chords. The combination of three pianists untethered from key centers or chord changes might seem like a recipe for discordance and a frayed listening experience. Instead, a piece like “Till Patrick Modiano No. 2” highlights how a suspended sense of forward motion can transcend the mind’s need for harmony and traditional organization.
3 Pianos: Till Patrick Modiano No. 1; 34; Till Patrick Modiano No. 2; 31; Till Patrick Modiano No. 3; Romaine Brooks; 33. (35:13)
Personnel: Ayumi Tanaka, Johan Lindvall, Christian Wallumrod, piano.