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Impressions - A Tribute to Debussy and Ravel by Peter Knudsen Trio

Following in the footsteps of Jacques Loussier, Knudsen and his mates Daniel Olsson and Fredrik Nilsson take selected pieces from the French impressionists and use them as springboards for improvisation. Possessed of a solid technique, the Swedish pianist seems to sit solidly in the tradition of someone like Bobo Stenson, although he may be a bit more upbeat than Stenson. Knudsen’s harmonic language, especially as applied to Debussy and Ravel, is very open, with little dissonance and a tendency, like Stenson, to prize calm and beautiful over sturm und drang. The trio interaction is subtle and attentive, both adhering to the form of these rigorous arrangements as well as being open to the moment in a way that Tord Gustavsen might treasure.

What’s truly nice about this disc is that the trio truly uses the motivic material from the classical source material as the basis for improvisation, rather than stating the themes and then going off in a different direction. These are well-known tunes, too: selections from Ravel’s "Le Tombeau de Couperin," Debussy’s "Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un Faune" as well as a couple of pieces from Children’s Corner. They function like standards in that way, taking the familiar and bending it to a different artistic slant.

As with some of the pianists on ECM of late, what I really long for is a little bit of teeth. Knudsen clearly can play and his introspection is touching, but taken over the course of the record, which clocks in at a mere 43 minutes, it gets a little easy-listening. Maybe a little knotty chord here or a chance for the drummer to cut loose over there, something to create a little danger in this careful musical world. Halfway through the "Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun," there’s a little bass and drums dialogue that gets almost muscular, then diffuses back into the gauze. Maybe a little anger or crisis would benefit Knudsen and it certainly wouldn’t be totally out of character for Debussy or Ravel as well.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Peter Knudsen Trio
  • CD Title: Impressions - A Tribute to Debussy and Ravel
  • Genre: Ambient Jazz
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Found You Recordings
  • Rating: Three Stars
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