When: Wed., May 30, 9:30 p.m. 2012
Since debuting in the mid-aughts, Norwegian piano trio In the Country has slowly moved away from its jazz roots. On its live album from last year, Sounds and Sights (Rune Grammofon), pianist Morten Qvenild still references the patient note-spread style of Paul Bley, but his compositions are characterized more by elegant simplicity and tender melodic sensibilities than by fancy harmonies or complex movement; bassist Roger Arntzen and drummer Paal Hausken heighten that clarity with direct, uncluttered playing. Qvenild does still improvise, and in those extended passages he sometimes conjures Keith Jarrett at his most Eurocentric—on "Whiteout" he works wonders, transforming minimal shreds of melody into emotional, tightly coiled solos. For the most part, though, the trio sticks to meticulous arrangements that favor slow elaborations and deconstructions or majestic ebb and flow, not lots of solo space. For the first three minutes of "How to Get Acquainted," for example, a hovering, shimmering arpeggio gradually intensifies, only to instantly recede into meditative calm after the climax hits—a calm that evaporates as the trio ramps back up by reshaping the melody. And the group's interest in pop is clearer than ever: two new tunes revolve around breathy vocal melodies, and they even remake the schlocky Dire Straits anthem "Brothers in Arms" (not their most brilliant decision). Missteps like that notwithstanding, In the Country have been impressively sure-footed in their evolution, with a melodic generosity that's never faltered. —Peter Margasak Ryan Hembrey spins.