Album Remarks & Appraisals:
'This Was The Pace Of My Heartbeat' is not your typical piano trio album, meaning that Qvenild has certain fondness for Paul Bley and the late Norwegian free player Svein Finnerud, and modern composers such as Messiaen and Feldman for the use of space and sound. Includes 9 original Qvenild compositions as well as a Ryan Adams cover and an interpretation of Handel's beautiful 'Laschia Ch io Pianga'. The album is an analogue recording and is produced by Arve Henriksen. Touch. 2005.
"When Norwegian label Rune Grammofon announces (in the press release for the debut album by the piano trio In the Country) that "Rune Grammofon presents its first 'jazz' record," you know it's going to be a unique take on a well-worn tradition. No standards to be found here, and with an approach that intentionally steers away from emulating any kind of expected jazz tradition, This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat is nevertheless the most organic recording the label has released. And one that can absolutely be considered a jazz record - if, of course, you're prepared to accept groups like E.S.T. and the Bad Plus as jazz.
Not that there's a whole lot to link In the Country with those aforementioned popular re-inventors of the piano trio, although pianist Morten Qvenild certainly shares a disposition, at least at times, towards compositions with a certain pop sensibility and structure. But whereas E.S.T.'s Esbjorn Svensson clearly comes from the Keith Jarrett school of thought, and the Bad Plus' Ethan Iverson owes a clear debt to Thelonious Monk, Qvenild's influences are distinctly un-jazzy.
Sure, there's a certain sense of abstraction and free play that makes "Trio for Quartet" an undeniable backwards glance at Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, and Paul Motian; but elsewhere there's an almost naïve lyricism and spacious melancholy that comes from another place entirely. Qvenild, in fact, cites modern composers Oliver Messiaen and Morton Feldman for their use of space and texture, and in the way that notes often seem to linger almost subconsciously, the influence is clear.
"Where Can We Go" builds from a foundation of long, sustained chords and delicate percussion; it's almost hymnal in its feeling of reverence. That "Beaver Creek" is written by Qvenild and "In My Time of Need" by singer/songwriter Ryan Adams, is more than a little curious, as they share a similar aesthetic, a certain folksiness and gentle but persuasive rhythm. While their differences far outnumber their similarities, the pervasive sense of calm and predilection for slower tempi also find In the Country sharing common ground with other fellow Norwegians of recent note, the Tord Gustavsen Trio.
That Qvenild, bassist Roger Arntzen, and percussionist Pål Hausken are individually involved in such diverse projects as the art-rock group Shining and the Norwegian country group Christer Knudsen and Sacred Hearts is demonstrative of the kind of broad diversity typical of so many emerging Norwegian artists. That, for example, Tord Gustavsen Trio drummer Jarle Vespestad can be such a spare and gentle player in that context, yet fit in perfectly with another much more adventurous Rune Grammofon group, the ambient noise band Supersilent, is clearly indicative of the wide range of musical interests that occupy many of these young players' attention.
With its air of dark tranquility, This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat may not have the immediate catchiness of releases by E.S.T. or the Bad Plus. But in many ways it's even more compelling, with an approach that, in its purity and lack of presumption, never approaches shtick or artifice." -AllAboutJazz
JazzTimes (p.101) - "Qvenild's mixture of jazz phrasing, classical sensibilities and love of songcraft leads In The Country through 11 songs that rarely rise above a whisper but carry the emotional power of a screaming stack of Marshall amps."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.98) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[A]ll is deceptively innocent, a fairy tale trip from hazy sunrise to 'round midnight, illuminated by moments of bright, autumnal clarity."
In the Country: Morten Qvenild (piano, keyboards, vibraphone); Roger Arntzen, Pål Hausken.
Personnel: Pål Hausken (vocals, autoharp, drums, timpani, percussion); Morten Qvenild (grand piano); Roger Arntzen (double bass).
Audio Mixers: Morten Qvenild; Rune Kristoffersen; Janne Hansson.
Recording information: Atlantis Studio (12/07/2004-12/08/2004).
Arranger: In the Country.
This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat was marketed as Rune Grammofon's first jazz release. It's a debatable case (the Scorch Trio's first CD surely was not far from the jazz realm), but In the Country's debut is certainly the label's most mainstream release up to this point. Led by pianist Morten Qvenild, the man responsible for the smooth musical arrangements of the project Susannah and the Magical Orchestra, this trio takes its cue from the soft-spoken piano trios of the bop era. There's a bit of Charles Mingus in the writing and a touch of Lennie Tristano in the phrasing, but the group is successful at developing a personal sound, mainly through the use of extended techniques (some prepared piano and creative drumming). Qvenild's use of vibraphone overdubs enhances the late-night lounge feel of the music, while drummer Pål Hausken adds a certain level of quiet unrest by bowing and scraping cymbals. Paces are very slow and pensive, but light. Qvenild does not come through as a phenomenal pianist, but then again the context would be ill-suited for a display of virtuosity. The focus remains solely on melody, even though there is more going on underneath it than what meets the ear at first, and the listener is invited to let himself or herself get carried away on the gentle ripples of the trio's tunes. Highlights include the tender "How to Get Acquainted," "Aerial Dark Bright Round," in which a timpani roll and a few percussive notes of prepared piano are enough to renew In the Country's palette, and the yearning "Viggo," featuring timid yet moving vocals from Hausken in a style that is strongly reminiscent of Arve Henriksen's wordless ballads. Incidentally, Supersilent's trumpeter co-produced the album with the trio. ~ François Couture