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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Raoul Bjorkenheim Triad – Beyond (Eclipse Music, 2017) ****

By Chris Haines

I’ve been following the progress of Bjorkenheim’s Triad project with great interest over the last few years as they’ve gradually released bits and pieces on Youtube and Soundcloud, which I’ve become incredibly excited about. As a trio comparisons with the Scorch Trio may be drawn, although in my opinion wrongly as they’re a slightly different kind of beast to that group, and musically probably have more in common with Krakatau, another of Bjorkenheim’s previous projects, due to their inclusion of ethnic influences. It’s no secret that Hendrix’s playing was a big influence on Bjorkenheim’s sound and on Beyond this is particularly in evidence, not just in the soaring lead lines but also in the more dissonant tones that can be found colouring some of the freer passages. It seems that the group’s original mandate was to be a vehicle for revisiting the work of Coltrane, Monk, and Hendrix as well as for airing Bjorkenheim’s own work, but what we have in Beyond is a set of original pieces.

The album gently eases in with ‘Act of Will’ a rhythmically free piece with its bowed guitar (or his viola da gimbri), change in harmonic envelope and a tension building scalic climb. Next up is ‘Move On’, the sort of piece that you might have expected to open the album, with it’s strong opening rock intro on the drums and probably what is Bjorkenheim’s most Hendrix sounding playing on the whole of the album along with what sounds like an overdubbed organ sound. The variety of the pieces on this album offers a good contrast across the tracks, with some well thought out sounds and structures that Bjorkenheim can clearly improvise over. The third piece ‘Defiance’ comes over like a piece of Japanese Ceremonial Music with it’s slow and stately tempo, cleverly used percussion colours and long sustained guitar tones – shakuhachi style. The title track is an atmospheric piece and the soundscapes created wouldn’t be out of place on an early Tangerine Dream recording, whilst ‘Arise’ gives us another subtle change in hue through the use of whole-tone playing. The last piece, ‘The Rain Is Over’ is Bjorkenheim’s deconstruction of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ played like the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ a lá Hendrix at Woodstock style.

This isn’t your normal kind of jazz guitar trio, (although you wouldn’t expect that with Bjorkenheim) with a wide range of influences and genres coming into the mix to show a group that’s comfortably conversant with creating different shades and tones. Although by today’s eclectic standards maybe this is precisely a 21st Century jazz guitar trio!