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Hello Troll

Helge Lien Trio

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Album Review

When a musician is from a Scandinavian country and his album is titled Hello Troll, someone who is unfamiliar with his work could easily assume that the music has something to do with death metal, black metal, Viking metal, or folk-metal. Trolls, after all, are mythical creatures from Nordic mythology, and Nordic mythology of pre-Christian times has been a prominent theme among Scandinavian extreme metal bands. One of Finland's best-known metal bands, in fact, is named Finntroll. But Hello Troll has nothing to do with metal. The focus of Norwegian pianist Helge Lien is straight-ahead post-bop jazz, and on Hello Troll, he embraces the time-honored acoustic piano trio format (Frode Berg is on upright bass, Knut Aalefjær on drums). Over the years, that format has been successful for a wide variety of acoustic jazz pianists ranging from Erroll Garner to Cecil Taylor to Red Garland; it also works well for Lien, who favors a clean-sounding post-bop pianism along the lines of Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Ahmad Jamal. Lien's crystalline approach serves him well on thoughtful originals such as "Snurt," "It Is What It Is, But It Is," "Axis of Free Will," and "Troozee" (all of which offer an attractive blend of intellect and melodic lyricism). There are no standards at all on this 2008 recording — no post-bop standards, no hard bop standards, no Tin Pan Alley standards — and that is probably for the best because playing original material exclusively gives Lien's improvisations a more personal quality. Although Hello Troll falls short of exceptional, this is a solid outing that underscores Lien's talents as both an acoustic pianist and a composer.

Hello Troll, Helge Lien Trio
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