Norway has a major jazz tradition and this trio just adds to the range of voices from there. They balance jazz traditions, classic backgrounds, and the new European modernism/chamber jazz sensibilities into a mix that can only be called their own. They are one of the handful of European trios that find roots in these traditions and in the sounds that many associate beginning with E.S.T. and being practiced by Marcin Wasilewski, RGG, and others, although they are much more about original compositions than combining them with reimaging pop songs. Relatively unkown in the U.S., they have six albums to their name, the last three on Ozella that are easily obtainable, and have won major awards for thier work in Germany.
The new CD, "Katenslager" is more of an outing for Lien, with frankly little input from the bass and drums as on previous CDs. This makes the CD no less wonderful to hear, and the compositions follow the framework discussed above --- a mix of classical and chamber jazz music with some jazz elements -- but in this case the emphasis has shifted to a more impressionistic set of pieces led by Lien, who plays a fantastic piano here with all sorts of range in emotions and play. Lien uses space to great purpose, on many pieces setting off short bursts of melody that allow the phrases to sink in. "Furulokk" is a particularly good example, where Lien plays short, staccato lines as if he is just thinking them up as he goes along, with major pauses as if considering where to go next. Still, the piece holds together beautifully, and legator runs interspersed with the short bursts serve to unify this piece, which relies almost entirely on the right hand. In contract, a number of pieces has significant left hand parts, in some cases like "Knyl Og Kann" these left hand notes can sound ominous as they are rolled in a thunderous undertone and propel the music forward. In "Kattinslager", the title piece, it is hard to determine if the piece opens with a strong accoustic bass line or a piano bass line, but gradually the piano bass hand emerges in a modernized boodie woogie-like setting that moves the piece along. Lien plays inside the piano at times as well, as on "Grusviavanderer" a moody outing that opens the CD rather unusually with heavy thrumming from the bass lines and only occasional tinkles of the right hand on the piano keys themselves.