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Hand Luggage Only by Excess Luggage

The prospects weren't promising—a rare combo mix, mostly original tunes, relatively unknown musicians, and a Scandinavian recording label. Shudder. The last group of young Northern Europeans I'd heard had me torn between boredom and suicide. Surprise! The trio sound works, the originals are strong, the musicians are first class, and the audio quality is just fine. Most jazz trios use a piano for melody, drums for rhythm, and bass for harmonic support. You'd think the bass would be missed and two keyboards would get in each other's way. Excess Luggage proves it ain't necessarily so. (Though the challenge of carting these axes around gives the band its name.) When the Hammond B3 plunks a bass line, the group could be mistaken for a standard trio. When it has the lead, we hear an organ trio with piano fills. It all works so well, you'd have to guess these guys have thought through how to avoid trouble. And so they have. They've been touring since 2008 and this is their second album. "Annoying You" has the session off to a swinging start. Though up-tempo, it has a romantically exotic vibe. The organ takes the melody while drums chug persistently and the piano chords. Then the piano solos over bass-like B3 and still driving percussion. The title reflects a repetitious melodic line that builds tension, finally resolved in the reprise by a clever stumbling anticlimax. "Jimmy's Thai Kitchen" is an easy lope. Solos here and throughout the release are fluent, rhythmically varied and solidly mainstream. "Corrupted Mirror" is the only cut that doesn't swing conventionally. I couldn't even decipher the time signature, but I don't feel too bad because the publicity release says the band members couldn't either. The piece is more for listening than toe tapping. The gentle lilting waltz "After All" returns the group to unsurprising rhythms. The burner "Fast Swing" follows and proves these pros rarely skipped out for soccer when they were supposed to be practicing technique. I like hearing what a group does with at least one standard, and "If I Should Lose You" accommodates. Both keyboards have a say in the melody before Steinar Nickelsen solos. When Vigleik Storaas swings into the spotlight, Nickelsen moves to perfect support with a combination of walking bass and full chords. This combination of instruments should be heard more often--and so should Excess Luggage. It's an exciting and satisfying release.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Excess Luggage
  • CD Title: Hand Luggage Only
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2011
  • Record Label: Parallell
  • Tracks: Annoying You, Jimmy's Thai Kitchen, Corrupted Mirror, After All, Fast Swing, Kunming, If I Should Lose You, Laat
  • Musicians: /Vigleik Storaas (piano), Steinar Nickelsen (Hammond B3 organ), Håkon Mjåset Johansen (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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