The French, Lille-based trio of pianist Stefan Orins performed its first concerts in 1996 and since then has maintained the same personnel – double bass player Christophe Hache and Orins’ brother, drummer Peter Orins, known from his collaborative projects with Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. «The Middle Way» is the fifth album of this trio, and Orins compositions for this album reflect his Swedish roots and were inspired by Scandinavian landscapes.
Orins compositions radiate a strong sense of space, serenity and reserved energy, but none of the nine compositions surrender easily. The equilateral operation of the trio demands a three-way, open dialogue and personal, expressive interpretations of Hache and Peter Orins. In such close, free-flowing triangle Orins emphasises the strong chamber jazz atmosphere of the trio and its middle path – the way that harmonizes what is visible and invisible, the predictable and the unpredictable; Hache anchors the refined, clever rhythmic interplay and Peter Orins colors the compositions with imaginative, sometimes eccentric ideas.
«The Middle Way» sounds at times as an extension of the the ECM lyrical school of Nordic jazz, but evading the chilly-melancholic atmosphere of some of ECM albums. Orins trio often brings to mind to mind the piano trio of Swedish Bobo Stenson with its strong character and its wide range of references and inspirations. The nine original compositions sketch few, parallel stories about methods of thought, men and women who attempted to make our world better and just and to expand our musical visions.
The first three pieces, «Chu (The Middle Way)», «Ku (Unseen)» and «Ke (Seen)» are a mini-suite that borrows its titles from the Buddhist concept of The Middle Way – harmonizing our life aspects, the physical and the spiritual. The trio moves organically on these melodic pieces between delicate, almost ethereal interplay to exploring lush, rhythmic patterns. «Henning Mankell», after the late, great Swedish author, suggests a tougher, mercurial atmosphere with constant surprising shifts in its course, as if attempting to abstract one of Mankell’s Scandinavian-noir stories.
The hymnal «Pétales au Vent» is dedicated to Japanese Buddhist philosopher and nuclear disarmament activist Daisaku Ikeda, and the following piece, «Wangari Maathai», dedicated to another activist, the late Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel laureate, deepens this reverent, peaceful vein. «Nandi» is dedicated to two masters of classical Indian music, Pascal Lovergne and Suresh Vaidyanathan and highlights the complex, asymmetrical rhythmic envelope of Hache and Peter Orins. «Winter always turns into spring», dedicated to fellow guitarist-composer Olivier Benoit, the artistic director of Orchestre National de Jazz, sounds as a three-way game of refining more and more the rhythmic essence of this composition. The last piece, «För», is a touching ballad dedicated to label-mate, trumpeter-vocalist Christophe Motury.
Stefan Orins (p), Christophe Hache (b), Peter Orins (dr)