Now getting a UK release at last this summer spoiler alerts aren’t necessary as this is the kind of album that will inspire lots of different reactions through the haze of abstraction.
There are surprises and a wealth of flickers of recognition you might go through listening to this solo piano affair. I certainly changed my mind lots of times over a number of listens. Even though Husebø is not “channelling” anyone, a tendency with a great deal of well-meaning jazz out there (Steps isn’t hommage, nor is it pastiche), ‘Far But Near’, the opener, has a kind of early Chick Corea atmosphere very briefly, certainly the tiny latinate hints and nudges. But it’s a far more austere vision that locates the mood more in Köln Concert territory or closer to home adjacent to Christian Wallumrød’s approach yet never as severe.
This isn’t a live album unlike the Jarrett 1970s classic album and nor was it recorded in a German opera house. Instead it was made at Rainbow in Oslo in December 2014 and recorded by an engineer familiar to many ECM albums, the Munich label’s equivalent of Blue Note legend Rudy Van Gelder, Jan Erik Kongshaug.
There’s no place to hide for the pianist given the pristine piano sound and clarity of audio capture. You can virtually hear the pianist think. Interested in electronics and live-sampling Husebø, who has collaborated with Spin Marvel’s Terje Evensen among others, is in a very different environment here, and it’s a largely successful excursion, a purer counterpart to earlier album Sources that brought piano and electronics together.
A little dour in places nonetheless Steps doesn’t really serve up the ecstatic or cathartic sense of release some piano albums certainly provide although it comes close a couple of times and the album does retain a hypnotic appeal. Emotional manipulation can be too easy sometimes, and there definitely is the sense that this album is ‘of the moment’ and risky in the sense that it is pure creation and compositionally alert however oblivious to a ‘script’ it may be. Husebø has a sound of his own in his head and that’s remarkable.
Sometimes the ‘fireworks’ are too much... ‘Strange Steps’ with almost a gymnastic quality to the sense of attack... but the lapping, translucent quality of other tracks, notably ‘Reverence for Otherness’, is a great pleasure. The tinkling ‘Ease’ earlier certainly flatters to deceive the listener and Husebø can do pastoral atmosphere as here really well, a conversation between the different melodic statements introduced by right and left hand flooding your ears. The best is yet to come with Husebø I get the feeling despite all the good things about Steps (like the beauty in the Jarettian intimations of ‘Inversion’)... the powerful rippling bubbles of inspiration gone before you know it... and that’s an exciting prospect. SG