Review of Espen Berg Trio’s concert at Jazzfest Trondheim 2015

This is Tor Hammerø’s (TV2) fantastic review of our concert at Jazzfest 2015, May 9th 2015:

Mesmerized

Espen Berg – mark that name. The kingdom of Norway has a new master pianist. It’s just a matter of time before the world gets to know about his talent.

Copyright Arne Hauge

Copyright Arne Hauge

Espen Berg (31) originally from Hamar, Norway, but lives in Trondheim where he quite obviously has been studying jazz at the city’s famous jazz department. Now, clearer than ever, he shows us that he is equipped with a mega sized talent. After hearing him as a sideman several times, with Marius Neset among others, and as a solo pianist, this was the first time I experienced him as a leader. And let it be said right away: This concert is one I’m quite sure I will remember for a long. long time.

Berg has been out there for a while now, but for some reasons beyond my belief he hasn’t gotten anywhere near the kind of acknowledgement he deserves. If there’s any kind of justice in this part of the world of jazz, then maybe the relatively new Espen Berg Trio will become his breakthrough.

Last year Berg put together the trio together with his accomplices from the jazz department in Trondheim, Simon Olderskog Albertsen (drums) from Stjørdal, Norway, and Bárður Reinert Poulsen (bass) from the Faroe Islands. They presented an hour long concert for an enthusiastic audience at Dokkhuset, Trondheim’s biggest jazz scene, which demonstrated that this trio holds a high level of quality and originality.

Copyright Arne Hauge

Copyright Arne Hauge

Berg has written all the music, which will be released in Japan shortly, and he picks up inspiration from both the melodic american jazz tradition and our own Nordic folk music. The music and the band are outgoing, and it’s obvious that this unity delivers an incredibly tight interplay. Berg is both a lyricist and a master of harmonies and, even when he has acquired a fantastic two-hand technique, the magnificent technique never gets in way of his ideas. There’s also a violent temper in Berg’s expression – like Chick Corea – and there’s a lot of things going on, sometimes maybe too much, during the quite short versions we were served.

In terms of rhythmics the music is exciting all the way, Albertsen has to be credited for that, and the music get’s the chance to evolve organically and definitely dynamically. The melodic contents are always in the centre of the music. Even if it sounds really free there’s always a structure present, which brings elements from souljazz, gospel – also impliedly funky to a great extent. Then, when the music, the communication between the musicians and the stage talk show an elegant humor – and Berg shows us in the encore that he’s an formidable solo pianist – this concert becomes a definitive highlight at Jazzfest. Espen Berg is ready for any stage, anywhere. Are you listening, Manfred Eicher?

Great collaboration projects for 2015

This year I’ve been invited to participate in some great collaboration projects with artists such as Anders Jormin, Mathias Eick, Kåre Kolve, Ivar Kolve, Per Oddvar Johansen, Mats Eilertsen, Hildegunn Øiseth, Andreas Aase, Tore Johansen and Steinar Krokstad.

Firstly, Kåre Kolve’s commisioned work for Trondheim Jazzfestival “Interactions” with Eick, Jormin, Johansen and Kolve. This is one of the headliner’s at the festival, and I’m very happy to play with my trio as well at Trondheim Jazzfestival. Later on, Espen Berg Trio will also make an appearance at one of the biggest festival’s in Norway, Nattjazz in Bergen.

Updated reviews of Acres of Blue

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to get an incredibly nice review of my latest album by Eyal Hareuveni at All About Jazz. A brief summary of the reviews so far:

Evocative, nuanced stories of dreamy, almost super natural landscapes. Another great work of a true master of the piano.
Eyal Hareuveni, All About Jazz, 03.03.14

Gorgeous solo recording by pianist Berg, who doesn’t leave an inch of any song uncovered by at least a melodic trace. It’s his second solo effort. Noctilucent, his first, was no less beautiful, but this new session just seems to have a larger presence.
– Dave Summer, Emusic, 14.02.14 

Espen Berg’s confirmed belonging to the group of top pianists of his generation, within the divisions of modern jazz- and classical informed music.
– Terje Mosnes, Dagbladet, 05.02.14

With his debut album “Noctilucent” in 2012, Espen Berg appeared as a solo pianist of high rank. With “Acres of Blue” he’s defending his place among the great masters.
– Roald Helgheim, Dagsavisen, 01.02.14

This is open-minded, dreamy and beautiful music. […] To summarize, this is a new rock solid solo album from Espen Berg: Not flamboyant in any way, but delicious, attentive and pretty much epic in its quiet way.
– Geir Vestad, Hamar Arbeiderblad, 30.01.14

From the first note played it’s easy to hear that Berg is a pianist on an internationally high level. He masters all of the instruments many neuances – from the quiet, slow and rich sounding notes to the rapid and powerful passages.
– Trygve Lundemo, Adresseavisen, 11.02.14

 

First Reviews of Acres of Blue

IMG_5528

The first reviews of Acres of Blue are starting to appear, and I couldn’t have been more happy with them! On Thursday January 30th, Hamar Arbeiderblad awarded the album with a 6/6 score and the front page headline: “Brilliant new album from Espen Berg”. They also dedicated to full size pages to an interview along the review. This is an excerpt of the review – I did my best to translate all those sophisticated words used to describe the music:

As with his solo debut, Noctilucent, the music is about compositions with a lot of room for improvisation: Characteristically, Berg’s music is just that – a combination of a lyrical, melodic expression and improvisation. This is open-minded and beautiful music, dreamy and fabulating in a way, but mainly imaginative and implying. The spontaneity is well taken care of, while he’s also – like with Noctilucent – utilizing a deep emotional level. It’s maybe even more open and spaceous sounding this time. It’s the grand landscapes that’s being crafted – where boundaries are broken and contradictions meet. To summarize, this is a new rock solid solo album from Espen Berg: Not flamboyant in any way, but delicious, attentive and pretty much epic in its quiet way. — Geir Vestad, Hamar Arbeiderblad, 30.01.14

Dagbladet, a national Norwegian newspaper gives Acres of Blue a 5/6 rating on February 5th:

The pianist Espen Berg (30) releases “Acres of Blue” as a sequel to his debut in 2012, “Noctilucent”, and this is also a solo album with composed and improvised music. Together with nine of his own melodies he seamlessly integrates Sting’s “Hounds of Winter” and Miles Davis’ “Nardis” into a personal expression that sounds more defined, dynamic and authoritative than on the last album, and when both touch, soundscaping and agility continues to be of top class, the album becomes an even more joyful experience. If “Noctilucent” was creating anticipations then “Acres of Blue” is the fulfillment of these, and also the confirmation of Espen Berg’s belonging to the group of top pianists in his generation, within the division of modern jazz- and classical informed music. — Terje Mosnes, Dagbladet 05.02.14

Dagsavisen, another national Norwegian newspaper, published an excellent review February 1st:

With his debut album “Noctilucent” in 2012, Espen Berg appeared as a solo pianist of high rank. With “Acres of Blue” he’s defending his place among the great masters. Like last time it’s a mixture of improvised and composed songs, and with the freely improvised opening tracks “Continuation” and “Frédéric” he’s showing both virtuosity and rich sounding ways of playing the piano. “The most natural approach to expressing myself musically has always been through the piano as a solo instrument”, he wrote on his first album. His extensive list of merits together with several bands proves that he has had many opportunities to practice his strength – on the instrument Keith Jarrett described as “the complete tool for expression”, when he released two solo concerts from 1981 on CD last year. It’s a pleasure listening to Espen Berg’s sparkling album, where he also arranges Sting’s “Hounds of Winter” and Miles Davis’ “Nardis” in his own tonal language – also paying Beethoven a visit with the beautiful “Til Eline”. And he finishes as he started, freely improvising on the tracks “Bokeh” and “Inevitable”. It’s Espen Berg it’s all about, a solo pianist who enters the club of the greatest. — Roald Helgheim, Dagsavisen 01.02.14

Acres of Blue released February 7th to excellent reviews

My latest solo CD “Acres of Blue” was released worldwide February 7th on iTunes, Spotify, WiMP, Amazon, CDON, etc. I’m right in the middle of a fragmented release tour:

Volsdalen church, Ålesund: February 9th, 19.00
Trøndertun, Melhus: February 11th, 12.00
Romedal church, Stange: February 16th, 18.00
Trondheim Art Museum: March 1st, 14.00
Steinkjer chapel: March 25th, 20.00
HiNT, Levanger: March 26th, 20.00

The CD has been awarded with excellent reviews already, with a 6/6 rating from Hamar Arbeiderblad. Read excerpts from the reviews here. Below is a short presentation of the upcoming CD, as well as a short press release.

In November 2012 Norwegian pianist and composer Espen Berg (30) released his debut album «Noctilucent», which All About Jazz.com described as one of the top ten releases that year. «Acres of Blue» is the sequel, which will be released February 7th 2014 by the label Atterklang.

«Noctilucent» and «Acres of Blue» are both solo piano recordings, which consists of Espen’s compositions, improvised music and new versions of familiar melodies. Espen represents the new generation of Nordic jazz musicians, playing lyrically and also tightly connected to the traditions of jazz and classical music. «Acres of Blue» was recorded in the magnificent concert hall at RDAM in Copenhagen, which brought even more life and openness into Espen’s playing.

Tour and studio recording with TJO & Marius Neset

These days I’m on tour with Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and Marius Neset, and we’re currently spending our days in Copenhagen recording in The Village Recording. Here’s the tour list:

Victoria, Oslo: Saturday Aug 31st – 21.00
Jazzhouse, Copenhagen: Wednesday Sept 4th – 20.00
Kulturhuset, Arendal: Thursday Sept 5th – 20.00
Sardinen, Bergen: Friday Sept 6th – 21.00
Folken, Stavanger: Saturday Sept 7th – 21.00
Dokkhuset, Trondheim: Friday Sept 13th – 22.00

Espen Berg, solo piano – ACRES OF BLUE

Norwegian pianist and composer Espen Berg (29) released his first solo piano album, “Noctilucent”, in November 2012. This debut was awarded with several top reviews, and All About Jazz called it “one of the most beautiful releases of 2012”.

“Acres of blue” is an improvised piece of music recorded in the concert hall at RDAM, Copenhagen, May 26th 2013. This recording session will be released as Espen’s second solo CD in late 2013.

Music, video and production by Espen Berg
Recording and co-production by Marc Casanovas, NorCat Lyd

Montreux Solo Jazz Piano Competition

This year I’ve been fortunate enough to be picked, again, as one as the semi finalists in the annual Montreux Solo Jazz Piano Competition in Switzerland. I participated last year as well, but without any significant result. Since this is the last chance for me, because I’m getting to old, I thought I’d give it another try with a different approach.

The competition is set for the beginning of July, and Iiro Rantala will be leading the jury. Wish me luck!

New Solo CD

25th and 26th of May I recorded my second solo CD in the magnificent concert hall at RDAM, Copenhagen. Marc Casanovas at NorCat Lyd did the engineering and produced the recordings together with me.

Marc

I’m mixing the CD these days, and it’s a joy to be working with such high quality recordings. The music was captured in 24bit/96khz with eight microphones: DPA, Sennheiser and Neumann. Two of the mics were used to record the ambience of the concert hall, which means that no artificial reverb is used on the CD. Only in certain occasions as an effect, but other than that it’s all natural sound. The two ambient tracks are meant to be used for a surround production, and hopefully I’ll be able to release the CD in a surround edition in addition to a regular stereo production.

Mix

I also recorded several tracks with video, so you can expect videos to appear on YouTube soon. This is certainly a more ambitious recording than “Noctilucent”, and I’m really pushing the limits of what I’m able to do with the piano. I really look forward to show you the end result!