Tingvall Trio, BIRDS Review

Tingvall Trio: BIRDS — From Dances to Birdsongs, a Harmonious Evolution


Tingvall Trio, BIRDS Review

Tingvall Trio: BIRDS — From Dances to Birdsongs, a Harmonious Evolution

by Ferell Aubre

Tingvall-Trio-BIRDS-CDWith the chattering of morning birds as nature’s original score, Tingvall Trio invites us into an aviary of musical impressions with their ninth studio album, BIRDS. This album marks their 20th anniversary and arrives at what one could call a tentative zenith in their career. The lineup—anchored by pianist Martin Tingvall, bassist Omar Rodriguez Calvo, and drummer Jürgen Spiegel—has remained impressively constant throughout their journey, a rarity that suggests a musical rapport deep enough to be its own kind of language.

Two years ago, Tingvall Trio invited us to groove to their effervescent rhythms in their Dance album (Read My Review HERE), taking listeners on a musical journey worldwide. With their latest endeavor, BIRDS, the band shifts its focus skyward, but the sense of a journey remains. It’s as if we’ve been led from a bustling dance floor to an open meadow at dawn, where nature takes over as the orchestra.

In BIRDS, Martin Tingvall translates the ornithological orchestra around us into jazz tonality, aiming to snap us out of our sonic negligence toward nature. Each track becomes a portrait of a bird, both metaphorical and melodic. He paints with a broad brush of influences, drawing on the trio’s multicultural heritages and underpinning it all with accessible melodies and catchy hooks—a hallmark of Tingvall’s composing style. His reflections on climate change and nature’s fragility bring an ecological urgency to the record.

The enchantment I found in their previous album, Dance, still resonates. Tracks like “Tokyo Dance” and “Ya Man” revealed a trio unafraid to dip their toes into various genres, from pentatonic influences to reggae beats. With BIRDS, the trio manages to bring that same eclectic spirit but directed through a more focused lens—our avian counterparts. It’s a fascinating evolution, turning from the man-made artistry of dance to the natural rhythms and tonalities of birdsongs.

“Woodpecker” opens BIRDS with an insistent ostinato, mirroring the rhythmic drilling of its namesake. It’s a welcoming peck at the door to a much larger, intricate world. Meanwhile, “Africa” uplifts listeners with jubilant tones and polyrhythmic patterning, seamlessly integrating African influences with the trio’s synergic sound.

“SOS” delivers the album’s most potent message. It’s an aural equivalent of a climate alarm—urgent, discordant, yet profoundly musical. The rhythmic tension between Spiegel’s chattering drums and Calvo’s whispering bass is a throbbing backbone for Tingvall’s cascading harmonic figures.

“The Day After” and “Air Guitar” represent the trio’s versatility. The former is a contemplative ballad, beautifully complemented by Calvo’s bowed bass, while the latter launches into a funk-infused celebration of sound.

“Humming Bird” embodies its subject with frenetic tempo changes, offering a well-balanced exhibition of technical proficiency and emotional depth. The sprinkling of blue notes adds a touch of existential introspection, as if the bird itself was reflecting on the ephemeral nature of flight.

The album concludes with “A Call for Peace,” a solo piano piece by Tingvall. Just as it did in Dance, the ending leaves a lasting impression, serving as a poignant full stop to a complex sentence about our relationship with nature and each other.

In the landscape of European jazz, Tingvall Trio remains a unique presence, continually evolving while staying rooted in the elements that make them distinctive. BIRDS reflects that statement, affirming that in music, as in nature, the beauty truly is in the details. The album is full of intricate melodies and intricate rhythms, showcasing the trio’s ability to create beautiful and challenging music. As they celebrate their 20th year, the Tingvall Trio is an ensemble wholly deserving of the word “outstanding.”

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