Kjetil Mulelid Trio: Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House
Rune Grammofon

Recorded in two days in January 2017, this debut album of modern acoustic jazz by the Kjetil Mulelid Trio is a fine addition to the long-running jazz piano tradition. A shared sensibility is definitely at work in the Norwegian outfit's playing: all three are young (the oldest not yet thirty), are recent graduates of Trondheim's Jazzlinja program at NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), and each has already contributed to a number of album releases. Mulelid's is the third piano trio to appear on Rune Grammofon, In The Country and the Espen Eriksen Trio the others.

Mulelid first came to our attention through his membership in Wako, whose recent collaboration with Oslo Strings, Modes for All Eternity, was selected as textura's number two jazz release of 2017, but the Copenhagen-based pianist also plays in the duo Kjemilie with singer Emilie Storaas. Joining him in the trio are double bassist Bjørn Marius Hegge, who also performs with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Operasjon Hegge, and Round Trip, and drummer Andreas Winther, whose septet Megalodon Collective was nominated for a Norwegian Grammy Award in 2016 for best jazz album.

A solid mix of compositions written by the leader (only one track, “C & R,” is a free improvisation), Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House strikes a satisfying balance between melody and soloing, with the former lending some of the pieces a pronounced folk-like character. With Winther on brushes and the pianist pushing the trio forward with triplet figures and stately phrases, “Entrance” introduces the album on a strong note, the only knock against it its too-short minute-and-a-half duration. Nowhere is the album's melodic quality better accentuated than in the wistful theme voiced by Mulelid in “Fly, Fly”; elsewhere, “Children's Song” captures the trio's ease in shifting from delicacy to aggressiveness, “From Someone Else's Point of View” shows a similar deftness in the trio's handling of a more free-floating style, and the rousing “Leaving Home” exposes the funkier, R&B-inflected side of the band.

Marked by youthful playfulness and energy, the recording includes moments that connect Mulelid's trio to others. Not only does the lilting “Children's Song,” for example, suggest a title Bill Evans might have chosen for one of his pieces, it's as pretty and elegant as something his own trio might have performed at the Village Vanguard. Winther's loose, colouristic swing often calls the late-period playing of Paul Motian to mind (e.g., “You Stood There In Silence, Having No Words”), whereas it's Mulelid, one presumes, whose vocalizing accompanies the piano in a number of spots, much as Keith Jarrett has done so famously (and to the chagrin of some listeners) on his own recordings. Don't get the wrong idea, though: lines can be drawn from the Norwegian outfit to Evans and Jarrett, but Mulelid's trio is no clone: like any group, his builds on the ground laid by others with a personalized take of its own.

December 2017