In the Country, Apiary | Empty Bottle | Jazz | Chicago Reader

In the Country, Apiary Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Wed., Feb. 24, 9:30 p.m. 2010

Upon the release of its 2005 debut, This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat, this Norwegian trio was celebrated as the first jazz act on the roster of the eclectic Rune Grammofon label, but even then In the Country hardly played conventional jazz. On the group's third and latest album, Whiteout, pianist and composer Morten Qvenild (the "orchestra" in Susanna & the Magical Orchestra) spaces his notes out patiently, displaying the influence of Paul Bley, but little else about the music feels jazzy at all: the moody, contemplative tunes embed improvisation in their written material instead of foregrounding it in solo form, and instead of swing and spontaneity they have tight, ornate structures, like pop songs. The album's seven pieces, fleshed out by Andreas Mjos (Jaga Jazzist) on guitar, vibraphone, and marimba, move at an elegant crawl, subtly elaborating on their pretty phrases and accreting details in slow motion. Bassist Roger Arntzen and drummer Paal Hausken usually deploy a feather-stroke pulse that shapes and supports the tissue of the music like a delicate armature, but they can also apply some muscle when it's called for. I'm not crazy about the grandiose synthesizers Qvenild uses on a couple pieces, but even with them, Whiteout is a gorgeous and distinctive album—and if you're willing to submit to its serenity, you'll be able to feel the power at its core. —Peter Margasak

Price: $12, $10 in advance

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