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Soren Bebe Trio

Here Now

by Ian Mann

March 28, 2024


A set of lyrical performances that place a strong emphasis on melody and beauty. The focus is very much on on mood, atmosphere and narrative rather than sheer virtuosity..

Soren Bebe Trio

“Here Now”

(From Out Here Music FOHMCD023)

Soren Bebe – piano, Kasper Tagel – bass, Knut Finsrud – drums

A slightly belated look at this latest album release from the Danish pianist and composer Soren Bebe which was first issued in November 2023. My thanks to Soren for forwarding me a copy of the album and my apologies for not getting round to writing about it until now.

I first discovered Bebe’s music in 2016 when he and his trio played a lunchtime show at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho as part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. At that time the trio consisted of Bebe, Tagel and drummer  Anders Mogensen and the performance was largely comprised of Bebe’s original compositions, with Mogensen also writing one number. The outside material included the jazz standard “How About You” and a Keith Jarrett inspired version of the Nat Adderley composition “The Old Country”. This was a highly enjoyable performance for me and a hugely successful one for Bebe and the trio. It is reviewed as part of my Festival coverage here;

Bebe, born 1975, hails from the Danish city of Odense and studied at  Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus  where his tutors included the Swedish pianist Lars Jansson, once of the Jan Garbarek group.

To date Bebe has released seven studio albums in the piano trio format, “Here Now” being the latest. At the time of the London show he was kind enough to gift me copies of his albums “Home” (2016) and “Eva” (2013), the latter featuring a trio of Bebe, Mogensen and the great American bassist Marc Johnson. Both discs represented highly enjoyable and rewarding listening experiences.

In addition to his work with his trio Bebe has collaborated with vocalist Katrine Madsen, trumpeter Jakob Buchanan, drummer Helge Andreas Norbakken  and the British saxophonist Julian Arguelles. He has also worked as a sideman with guitarist Christian Frank,  vocalist  Cæcilie Norby  and saxophonist Benjamin Koppel. Bebe has also written extensively for dance performances, specifically ballet.

Bebe cites his main pianistic influences as including Oscar Peterson,  Keith Jarrett, Tord Gustavsen, Misha Alperin, Jan Johansson, Espen Eriksen and Aaron Parks, with commentators also suggesting Errol Garner and Bill Evans as other potential sources of inspiration. Bebe has also expressed his admiration for the work of the late trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler, particularly with regard to Wheeler’s writing.

“Here Now” displays many of the virtues exhibited at that Pizza Express show in a set of lyrical performances that place a strong emphasis on melody and beauty. All of the pieces are relatively short and often song-like in construction, with only one item exceeding five minutes in duration.  The focus is very much on on mood, atmosphere and narrative rather than sheer virtuosity.

The music reflects Bebe’s move with his family to the tranquillity of the Danish countryside. He now lives in a small village surrounded by woods, lakes and farmland, with the peace and quiet of this newly bucolic existence informing his writing for this album. The overall mood of the music is relaxed, contemplative and resolutely unhurried.

The trio set their stall out with the title track, which opens the album. Bebe’s sparse, tentative piano phrases are punctuated by the taps and rustles of Finsrud’s snare drum and the tick of his cymbals.  Double bass is added as a more recognisable and flowing piano melody emerges. One senses that the members of the trio are listening very intently to each other as they combine to produce this spacious, fragile and beautiful music.

“Tangeri” establishes its melodic qualities from the start as the trio gently explore a Bebe theme with a distinct hymn-like quality that is sometimes reminiscent of the music of Tord Gustavsen. Long serving Kasper Tagel is featured on an exquisitely melodic bass solo, while Norwegian born Finsrud’s sensitive brushwork provides subtle rhythmic propulsion.

The gentle accents and rumbles of Finsrud’s drums introduce “Grateful”, another piece that unfolds slowly and melodically and which represents a genuine musical conversation between the three instrumentalists. Finsrud excels in his role of colourist and commentator, responding to Bebe’s lyrical piano melodies with a rich palette of drum and cymbal sounds as he delivers another sensitive and delicate performance.

At a little over five minutes duration “Winter” represents the lengthiest track on the album. It’s another beautiful and melodic piece and is less chilly and austere than the title might suggest, perhaps reflecting the Danish concept of “hygge”. At the piano Bebe stretches out more expansively than elsewhere and there’s also a melodic bass feature from Tagel.

Unaccompanied piano introduces “Misha”, which I assume represents a dedication to the late pianist and composer Misha Alperin (1956 – 2018), a Soviet born musician who moved to Norway and recorded a series of albums for ECM.
Bebe sketches the folk-like melody before Tagel and Finsrud join the proceedings, subtly accelerating the tempo and providing the framework for the pianist’s subsequent explorations. Tagel is also featured with a typically fluent and dexterous double bass solo.

Tagel’s bass then introduces “Be Well”, his sound now deep and resonant, but subsequently receding as Bebe introduces gently rippling piano melodies, these accompanied by the filigree of Finsrud’s deft cymbal work. It’s one of the album’s more abstract and impressionistic pieces.

An unaccompanied drum passage, played with what sounds like bare hands at times, introduces “Folksy”, subtitled “To Jan”, and presumably representing Bebe’s homage to the Swedish pianist and composer Jan Johansson (1931-68). Johansson was one of the first musicians to introduce Scandinavian folk music into Nordic jazz and can arguably be viewed as a pioneer of an entire jazz sub-genre. Bebe’s tribute is one of the most playful pieces on the album as he improvises around an appropriately ‘folksy’ melody and engages in some joyous instrumental interplay with Finsrud.

By way of contrast “Day By Day” is the most introspective piece on the recording, thoughtful and ruminative, but possessed of a delicate and melancholic beauty. Bebe’s gently flowing piano melodies are embellished by Finsrud’s delicate cymbal work.

As it title might suggest “Summer” is the most upbeat track on the album with Finsrud’s unaccompanied drum introduction establishing an implacable groove that provides the platform for the leader’s melodic piano extemporisations. It’s the closest that this particular Scandinavian piano trio gets to sounding like E.S.T.

The album concludes with the hymn-like “On And On”, a blend of Gustavsen inspired piano, melodic double bass soloing and delicately brushed drums.

I don’t wish to labour the Gustavsen comparisons too much but there are undeniable similarities between the music of Bebe and the better known Norwegian. Each musician has established a personal style that they have continued to refine over a series of several albums – “polishing the diamond” as drummer Bill Bruford memorably defined such a process. Gustavsen is an acknowledged source of inspiration for Bebe and the many fans of Gustavsen’s music and of Scandinavian piano jazz in general are likely to find much to enjoy in Bebe’s music. As with Bebe’s previous trio releases “Here Now” contains some memorable tunes and some immaculate playing, with Finsrud fitting seamlessly into the trio while simultaneously establishing his own musical personality within it.

As a fan of both Bebe and Gustavsen I very much enjoyed listening to this recording, but can understand the criticisms of other commentators who may regard the music of both as being overly prettified and bloodless. It’s not an opinion I’d totally concur with. Although these are not fiery, fiercely interactive performances both the Bebe and Gustavsen trios bring a low key intensity and a singleness of purpose to their music, allied to a more delicately honed style of interaction between the players. In the broad church of jazz there’s plenty of room for both approaches and the Bebe trio do what they do extremely well.

Since the release of “Here Now” Bebe has also issued the digital album “First Song”, a compilation of stand alone tracks recorded by the trio at three separate recording sessions in 2015, 2019 and 2023 but never previously released on album. Released in January 2024 this album features contributions from both Mogensen and Finsrud.

All of Soren Bebe’s albums are available here;


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