Karl Ivar Refseth Trio, Devotion Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Vibraphonist Karl Ivar Refseth has just released his latest album titled Devotion. This is the follow-up to his debut album, Praying, released six years ago. On Devotion, Refseth maintains his passion for presenting atmospheric jazz that defies genre boundaries as it pulls from classical and today’s music. He is joined by two sensitive bandmates, Christian Weidner, alto saxophone, and Matthias Pichler, double bass. The trio presents eleven compositions united by an intellectual and emotional understanding that they share and communicate through their performances. Refseth emphasizes that Devotion should be understood and heard as a dramaturgic whole, and even if that may not always work out, the idea underlines the music’s remarkable timelessness.
“Cloud Groove” opens with Refseth playing an ostinato figure upon which Weidner and Pichler perform a beautiful tutti melody. The song creates a space of interesting layers, and the composition unfolds with many variations and events. Weidner’s saxophone solo maintains the same energy and color that the melody established as the trio works to build a musical journey. There are exciting orchestra colors within the composition as Refseth does an outstanding job of layering and creating figures of complimenting activity and instrumental color.
Most of the material “Betrayal” represents an immediate reaction to the virus and life in lockdown. “It reflects the disillusioning realization that, at least for a while, the arts did not receive their often-claimed appreciation,” Refseth explains. “While we were losing out on five-figure revenues and wondering how we were going to pay our rents, financial support was comparatively small. This left me – as well as other colleagues – with the feeling that the world didn’t really care about us after all.” Behind “The Old Pike,” however, there is a much happier story. “I dreamt that I was fishing in Norway with two siblings. In the background, this melody was playing as a continuous loop – and it’s actually not the only piece whose fundamental ideas came to me in my sleep.”
Refseth conceived Devotion to be heard as a whole, but it still works when heard in segments. The project serves as an essential documentation that brings his soloing capacities and compositional imagination into focus. The ensemble also displays a sense of shared space and demonstrates impressive interplay.