Benedikt Jahnel Trio: The Invariant (ECM 2523)

The Invariant

Benedikt Jahnel Trio
The Invariant

Benedikt Jahnel piano
Antonio Miguel double bass
Owen Howard drums
Recorded March 2016 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: January 13, 2017

Five years after their 2012 ECM debut, pianist Benedikt Jahnel, bassist Antonio Miguel, and drummer Owen Howard return to form while also expanding the parameters of what’s possible within it. A clue, perhaps, into this calling-card title—The Invariant—through which implications of constancy are playfully cross-hatched by their own unraveling. It’s all there in the pianism that opens “Further Consequences,” laying the stones for a spiraling staircase into the heart. Here, in this innermost sanctum, is where the torch of interpretation is passed from performers to listeners. The urgency of Miguel’s bassing is softened by the entrance of Howard’s brushes, which by their gentle persuasion soften the temperature into cooler streams of consciousness.

All of this lays a grand carpet for the introverted groove of “The Circuit,” in which the trio swings gently enough that one barely senses its passage through crowded city streets. It’s a transfiguration of time through space, and of space into time itself, a psychological wormhole between modes of creation. But regardless of whether the atmosphere at the other end is the funkier “Part Of The Game” or the fragmentary “Interpolation One,” the deeply arranged “Mirrors” or the balladic “En Passant,” Jahnel and company separate rope into filament at every turn. They also leave themselves open to suggestion, as in the case of “For The Encore.” Originally intended to close out the set, producer Manfred Eicher felt its steady triangulation of pulse, free-floating midsection, and bass soliloquy worthy of earlier placement.

The boldest circle here, however, is “Mono Lake,” of which an insistent beat and diecast melody hold the surrounding muscles together as a ligament. Like the album in the fullness of its being, it flirts with infinity in a collective song so resolutely out of body that words struggle to catch its shadow.

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