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Reviews: Impuls Trio, Impuls Trio; Trio Mio, Love & Cigars

Impuls Trio
Impuls Trio
[Go Danish Folk Music (2011)]

Trio Mio
Love & Cigars
[Go Danish Folk Music (2011)]

Somewhere in the depths of Denmark there must be a “random trio generator” where all the names of folk musicians are fed into to form new groups. How else can you account for all the trios that seem to dominate Danish acoustic music?

One of the newest is the Impuls Trio, comprising fiddler Kristian Bugge (Jensen & Bugge, Habadekuk, Baltic Crossing), accordionist Jesper Vinter (Phonix), and guitarist/mandolinist John Baek (Kaetter Kvartet). The group’s music is taken from old music books, country dance, and their own compositions. While respecting the music’s roots, the group gives the tunes, a mixture of reels, waltzes, polkas, and hospas, a modern, lively spin. The anchor is Baek’s guitar/mandolin work, providing both uplifting rhythms and duets with the violin and accordion. It’s this interplay between the three that is so enchanting. It’s modern in its setting and arrangements yet solidly based on the tradition. The added little touches—the understated trombone in “Waltze,” the use of drums on two tracks, and acoustic bass on four others—only makes things better. A splendid debut recording. [www.impulstrio.dk]

Trio Mio is one of the old guard, formed back in 2004 by violinist Kristine Heeboll, who was in an early version of Phonix; Swedish guitar and bouzouki player Jens Ulvsand, who comes from a jazz background; and keyboardist/accordionist Nikolaj Busk, who provides the classical influence. Both Ulvsand and Busk are noted session musicians and play in more groups than can be listed here. What Trio Mio does best is combine all their various influences into their own unique vision of contemporary folk music. The group writes most of its own music (there’s one traditional tune here, “Stormem,” that’s given its own distinctive arrangement), but much of it, like Heeboll’s “Taxaskotix” or Busk’s “Dick Turpin Polska,” is based on traditional music. But it’s when they mix genres, adding in touches of jazz and classical, and in their use of space, slowing things down and letting ambient sound wash over the music, that they’re at their best. On a tune like “Fillingpolska,” a quiet fiddle piece where the music weaves in and out but always returning to a simple set of counterpoint piano notes by Busk, it’s amazingly simple but beautifully haunting. Ulvsand provides the only vocal (outside of some ambient background “ahhhs”) on “Appletree/Ringvalsen,” a nice diversion but not what the band does best. If you only buy one Danish recording this year, make it this one. You won’t go wrong. [www.triomio.dk]

—Jim Lee (Simi Valley, CA)


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