In what has been a poor year to date for piano trios Beauteous Tales and Offbeat Stories bucks the downward trend. This gem is from a band that you, possibly like me, might never have previously heard of although they have been around a while. 

With a detail from a 16th century painting by Hieronymus Bosch on the cover rendered from the Triptych of the Temptation of St Anthony, a flipped representation of two figures riding on the back of a flying fish, two Finns and an Armenian come together in a combination as devastatingly effective as [em] in their pomp or the Helge Lien trio at their grittiest there is great flow here the ultimate requisite for a top piano trio. Exuberance, ideas, and above all trio empathy are all present and correct here, too.

Finnish pianist Kari Ikonen has a different style to his fellow Finn Iiro Rantala, perhaps a little more Herbie Hancock-inclined in the jazzier episodes and less overtly classical in his method although this latter side of his playing is clear say on the introduction to ‘The 4th Part of the Harbour Trilogy’. Like Rantala Ikonen knows how to run with an improvisation, the skill at speed on the sparkling if bizarrely titled ‘L’avant-midi d'une elfe’ quite something to behold.

It’s not all fireworks: the serious arco bass at the beginning of ‘Astri Pes,’ a lament that owes its origins to the work of poet Gusan Ashot (1907-1989) arranged by the bassist Ara Yaralyan, takes us into a different dimension that Ikonen then responds to with painstaking solemnity resisting the urge to resort to melodrama a process that sucks you in completely. Drummer Markku Ounaskari is a listening presence at all times injecting just enough heat to make his role plain or stepping in to open up proceedings deftly on the absorbingly complex ‘Verhotango.’

A softly unfolding iridescent version of John Coltrane’s ‘Countdown’ is another significant talking point as well as a number of highly evolved Ikonen compositions, this album is full of surprises and interesting content: even a consciousness expanding Bollywood choice keeps you guessing. A record worth getting to know in all its carefully rendered detail.

Stephen Graham

The Kari Ikonen trio, above