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Daniel Karlsson Trio

Daniel Karlsson Trio, Kidderminster Jazz Club, Corn Exchange Room, Town Hall, Kidderminster, Worcs. 06/10/2022.

by Ian Mann

October 08, 2022


Karlsson and his colleagues have been able to both absorb and transcend their influences to come up with a sound that is very much their own.

Daniel Karlsson Trio, Kidderminster Jazz Club, Corn Exchange Room, Town Hall, Kidderminster, Worcs. 06/10/2022

Daniel Karlsson – piano, electronics, Christian Spering – double bass, electronics, Fredrik Rundqvist – drums, percussion, electronics

The Swedish pianist and composer Daniel Karlsson and his trio visited Kidderminster Jazz Club as part of an ongoing tour that includes several dates in the Midlands organised by the West Midlands Jazz Network.

The current tour represents the trio’s first visit to the UK for nearly three years. In late 2019 they also toured with the support of the West Midlands Jazz Network and their itinerary even included a visit to my home city of Hereford. Unfortunately that gig was rather sparsely attended, in part due to local flooding problems at that time, but the performance was excellent and I was able to speak to Daniel and his colleagues afterwards.

Daniel was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the trio’s latest album “Fuse Number Eleven”, from which the majority of the material at Hereford had been sourced, for review purposes. My favourable review of that recording, the trio’s sixth full length album, can be found here;

Prior to the Hereford show I was already familiar with Karlsson’s playing from his work as a sideman with other Swedish groups. He is a member of the still ongoing band Oddjob, a group once signed to the prestigious German label ACT for whom they released the albums “Sumo” (2008) and “Clint” (2010), both of which are reviewed elsewhere on this site.  In 2010 I enjoyed a sold out performance by Oddjob, featuring Karlsson, at London’s Vortex Jazz Club as part of that year’s London Jazz Festival.

Karlsson has also been a member of the quartet led by former E.S.T. drummer Magnus Ostrom and appeared on Ostrom’s excellent 2016 album “Parachute”. Review here;

Besides his work with Oddjob and the Ostrom band Karlsson has also collaborated with trombonist Nils Landgren and with vocalists Rigmor Gustafsson and Viktoria Tolstoy, all artists associated with the ACT label. He has also worked with the German born trumpeter / vocalist Til Bronner.

Since 2013 Karlsson has led his own trio, recording for the Swedish label Brus & Knaster.  The trio’s albums have attracted a compelling amount of critical acclaim and resulted in a number of awards in their home country. They have also enjoyed regular airplay in Italy, Germany, the UK and Ireland, accruing a dedicated following in all of these countries.

Bassist Christian Spering has also worked with Nils Landgren and Rigmor Gustafsson and also with pianist Bobo Stenson and drummers Peter Erskine and the late Jon Christensen.

Rundqvist has also worked with Stenson and with the celebrated bassist Palle Danielsson, but I’m more familiar with his playing after hearing him both live and on disc in bands led by saxophonist Orjan Hulten and guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos, the latter Greek born but now resident in Sweden after several years of living and working in London. Rundqvist has also worked with the Australian singer and songwriter Sarah Blasko.

I’m pleased to report that the Kidderminster show was better attended than the Hereford one, not the largest crowd KJC has attracted, but nevertheless a highly supportive one that helped to give tonight’s gig a good atmosphere. This was a gig that I had very much been looking forward to following the Hereford date and my subsequent enjoyment of the “Fuse Number Eleven” album. There was also the considerable bonus of Karlsson enjoying the opportunity of playing the splendid grand piano at the Corn Exchange Room. At Hereford, as I recall, he’d been obliged to deploy an electric keyboard.

That said the judicious use of electronics plays a substantial role in the DKT sound with both Karlsson and Spering making use of electronic effects. Rundqvist also had a number of electronic devices at his disposal but largely decided to focus on playing the drums, his set up including a number of distinctive small cymbals in addition to the usual crash, ride and hi-hat.

2019’s “Fuse Number Eleven” may be the trio’s latest album, but as is so typical of jazz musicians the band have already moved on and the majority of the material performed tonight was new and previously unrecorded, although some of the pieces are likely to turn up on a forthcoming EP. The material is composed by Karlsson but arranged collectively, indicating that this is a highly interactive trio with a strong group rapport forged over many years of touring and recording together, Spering having taken over from original bassist Kristian Lind on the band’s third album “At The Feel Free Falafel” (2016).

Karlsson’s compositions often begin with a simple piano phrase or motif and develop from there, accruing layers of complexity along the way. Given Karlsson’s association with Magnus Ostrom the influence of E.S.T. is always present while Karlsson also cites his fellow Swede Bobo Stenson as a major source of inspiration. Nevertheless Karlsson and his colleagues have been able to both absorb and transcend their influences to come up with a sound that is very much their own.

In live performances DKT like to merge compositions together and the opening segue of “Climbing the Ladder” and “Rule of Thumb” began with Karlsson solo at the piano, almost sounding as if he were ‘doodling’ as he eventually picked out the introductory motif. Spering joined to add layers of arco bass melody while Rundqvist’s array of small percussion chimed gently and atmospherically. When Spering switched to the pizzicato technique and Rundqvist began to lay down a brushed drum groove memories of E.S.T. were stirred with Karlsson now soloing more expansively, the momentum of the music still gathering as Rundqvist switched to sticks. This opening section of the segue then culminated in a drum feature.
A further passage of solo piano marked the transition into “Rule of Thumb”, the title a reference to a piano technique. This piece also included a subtle degree of electronic embellishment, variously generated by Spering’s foot pedals or the gadgetry concealed within the lid of the piano. Periodically Karlsson also reached into his instrument to dampen the strings. The first solo went to Spering who entered into a dialogue with Rundqvist’s brushed drums. Once again the trio eventually established an E.S.T. style groove, more hard hitting this time, which formed the basis for Karlsson’s piano soloing.

Karlsson introduced “Moderato” as a ballad, a description that was certainly appropriate to the opening section of the tune which featured the sounds of brushed drums and a dexterous and melodic bass solo from Spering. However the momentum later began to build with Karlsson now soloing more energetically and trading ideas with drummer Rundqvist.
Solo piano then marked the change into “Shoulder Pads”  with arpeggiated piano figures augmented by low end rumbles and the use of cross hand techniques.  Crisp drumming and anchoring bass then fuelled a more conventional piano solo from the leader prior to a more atmospheric passage featuring the sounds of small percussion and electronics. Spering’s bass solo incorporated both pizzicato and arco techniques and this was followed by a piano / drum dialogue with the sound of Karlsson’s piano electronically echoed.
It was difficult to draw the demarcation between “Shoulder Pads” and “Leonardo”, the title that formed the final part of this segue and which concluded the first set. I can only assume that the latter was represented by a hard grooving, constantly accelerating final section with the rhythm team fuelling a dazzling piano solo from Karlsson. It was a good way to concluded an absorbing and highly enjoyable first set.

The second set commenced with a tune that had actually been previously recorded. “Paddy Tang” appeared on the 2014 album “Fusion For Fish”, the last album to feature original bassist Kristian Lind.  Spering made it made it his own with a fluent double bass solo and he was followed by the leader at the piano.

Spering and Karlsson also shared the solos on the as yet unrecorded “Last Minute” before the trio tackled “The Commuter”, a piece that Karlsson described as “a rock power ballad”. As on so many pieces this was introduced by a passage of unaccompanied piano with the leader eventually joined by languid double bass and brushed drums. The language of the ballad was eventually superseded by a more impressionistic passage featuring the sounds of electronics and small percussion, the music gradually building momentum before subsiding once more into gentle ballad mode.

The trio returned to the “Fusion For Fish” repertoire for “Correspondence With Folke Bengtsson” which was ushered in by an extended passage of solo piano and was a piece that went through a series of distinct phases incorporating varying dynamics, representative perhaps of a series of correspondence. The performance included an extended bass solo from Spering that made use of both pizzicato and arco techniques. A further passage of unaccompanied piano led the way into a groove based section featuring Rundqvist’s nimble, highly detailed drumming and Spering’s dramatic flamenco style bass strumming. Karlsson’s solo was followed by a piano and bass dialogue, with Karlsson again dampening the strings. The pianist and bassist were eventually joined by the exotic sounds of Rundqvist’s small cymbals. The piece concluded with Karlsson’s gentle piano ruminations and Rundqvist’s softly brushed drum commentary.

The quality of the performance deserved an encore and this was to be another piece from “Fusion For Fish” titled “Cousin Cuisine”. Evocative, sometimes humorous, English language tune titles are a characteristic of DKT, something else they share with E.S.T., whose tunes were often written by Esbjorn Svensson and titled by Magnus Ostrom.
Once again this was ushered in by the leader at the piano with the trio eventually establishing a groove which formed the basis for Karlsson’s piano soloing, his style here reminiscent of Keith Jarrett, and particularly Jarrett’s ‘country blues’ style. A great way to end an excellent evening of music making.

My thanks to Daniel and Fredrik for speaking with me after the gig and providing me with a set list which has proved to be highly useful in the writing of this review. Also to Daniel for the gift of “Ding Dong”, the trio’s 2017 album. I also have a copy of the trio’s fifth album, simply titled “5”, from 2018. On the evidence of these recordings plus the earlier “Fish” material and the new tunes that we heard tonight the conclusion is that this is a trio that has maintained consistently high standards throughout their career.

DKT are scheduled to play the following UK dates during October 2022. Catch them if you can.

Wed, OCT 12 Exeter Phoenix,Exeter

 Thu, OCT 13 The Stoller Hall, Manchester

Fri, OCT 14, 1000 Trades, Birmingham

Sat, OCT 15, Clun Valley Jazz, Bishops Castle, Shropshire

Sun, OCT 16, JAZZatA, Bristol

Thu, OCT 20, Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton

More information at


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