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The Swedish trio expEAR – sax player Henrik Frisk, pianist Maggi Olin and drummer Peter Nilsson, three close collaborators for decades – was founded as an experimental sonic lab, aiming to explore meeting points of contemporary jazz with free-improvised music, often with guest musicians. The trio collaborated before with vocalist Josefine Cronholm and violinist Katt Hernandez but recorded its debut album with prolific American double bass player Drew Gress, known for his collaborations with trumpeter Ralph Alessi and pianists Uri Caine, Bill Carrothers, Marc Copland and Fred Hersch.

Gress’ deep roots in the Afro-American jazz legacy colored this project in clear and carefully-structured narratives of contemporary jazz aesthetics, leaving aside exEAR affinity with more open and more improvised textures. The nine compositions by Olin, Frisk and Gress of Vesper were recorded after a short tour in December 2015.

expEAR managed to form an intimate and emphatic interplay with Gress, with very few attempts to rush things or suggesting a powerful intensity, but to explore new harmonic possibilities and subtle rhythmic patterns. Gress is the rhythmic anchor of the expanded expEar and often his thoughtful bass introductions and solos set the atmosphere for the calm and patient interplay, except on his own own pieces, «Zaftig» and the title-piece, where all explore more rhythmic options. Still, the most impressive pieces of expEAR together with Gress are Olin’s «Blue to Pink» and Frisk’s «Cradle Song», both charged with rare and fragile, poetic beauty.

Eyal Hareuveni

Henrik Frisk (ts), Maggi Olin (p), Peter Nilsson (dr), Dew Gress (b)

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