Torstein Ekspress: Reiseliv
Just for the Records

Torstein Ekspress's classic jazz quartet line-up might lead one to expect Reiseliv will be the customary blend of ballads and uptempo burners. But on its debut album, the group surprises by opting more than anything else for intimate, chamber-styled interplay—a refreshing surprise. With trumpeter Torstein Lavik Larsen joined by saxophonist Hanna Paulsberg, bassist Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson, and drummer Hans Hulbækmo, the group laid down the album's eight compositions, all of them credited to the band leader, on a single day in January, 2015.

The four play with an authority, verve, and confidence that belies their youth. On the front-line, Larsen's trumpet and Paulsberg's tenor purr with smoky conviction, the two deftly voicing the tunes' themes and granting each other room to maneuver. Throughout the recording, the pair demonstrate an impressive knack for coming together for unison statements and then separating for solo expressions. The rhythm players have their moments, too: “Scones” includes an arco bowing spotlight for Dietrichson, and whether playing with sticks or brushes, Hulbækmo is always soloing, given the way he adjusts his playing at every moment to what's happening around him, his dextrous attack on “Towel Call” a representative illustration.

With the bassist and drummer providing a supple yet nonetheless solid base, “OL” inaugurates the forty-six-minute set with a modal-styled vamp that offers a strong showcase for Paulsberg's Coltrane-esque musings and Larsen's extemporizations. Rather more ponderous by comparison are the chamber-styled explorations “Julefiasko,” “Shi,” and “Pute til Lars.” Yet while the vibe is often laid-back, the four are capable of swinging when they put their mind to it. Not only does the melodically enticing title track, for example, lustfully swing, it does so with a funky, R&B-styled feel. Adding to the recording's appeal is the fact that Larsen writes solid tunes, their memorable themes elevating the performances.

Theirs is a kind of intimate acoustic jazz of the kind one might hear emanating from a Greenwich Village club during the wee, small hours of a rainy Manhattan night; that Torstein Ekspress is a Norwegian outfit simply indicates how deeply the style has established itself around the globe.

September 2016