Sunset Sunrise continues the Norwegian trio In The Country’s distinctive journey through the less obvious musical fjords. Morten Qvenlid’s piano remains as rambling as ever yet continues to distract and delight. Laid back and freeform, the opener is a slow paced wander that takes us to places very different from our own surroundings. In the liner notes Qvenlid talks about the necessity of self reliance for many Norwegians, a situation that leads to them coming up with their own solutions and techniques. That appears to be the case with his playing even though he has worked with so many other musicians that this sense must be either cultural or nostalgic. The rhythm section of Roger Arntzen on bass and Pal Hausken on drums keep things on a relatively familiar track most of the time and this of course affords the pianist the freedom to roam wherever the muse takes him. This is not free jazz however, a label that conjures up pianos falling down stairs and saxophonists strangling geese, the central voice has some unusual things to say but it does so in an approachable way, there is little of the machismo here.
The title appears to have been inspired by Sunset Sound the studio in LA where the album was recorded in the summer of 2012. This might be why the sound is a bit more muscular and weighty than In The Country’s previous albums. It’s a good sound, one that’s easy to approach, especially when Qvenlid’s playing lapses into full on tunefulness. This gives the rhythm section a bit of room to manoeuvre, to show off their chops so to speak but there is no showboating, this band operates as a cohesive whole and its this that gives them the ability to explore without becoming self indulgent.
In The Country are genuinely pushing the art of the piano trio forward, they are exploring new forms without resorting to abstraction, resisting populism but remaining accessible. They are high on my list of must see bands.