“Camel Walk” (Jazzland, 2008) is pianist Maria Kannegaard’s third album, recorded as a trio together with Ole Morten Vågan on contra bass, and Thomas Strønen on drums. After her initial releases of 2000’s “Breaking the Surface” (Act), and her second studio album of 2005, “Quiet Joy” (Jazzland), we are again warmly welcomed into Kannegaard’s exquisite style.
Consisting of ten songs composed by Kannegaard, we are taken on something of a musical journey. “Drifting Down the Nile” opens the album, followed by the irking “Haunted”. You may notice that this time, Kannegaard’s usually developed soloing is on this album is placed within the context of a collective sound. We pause briefly to reflect over “A Cup of Coffee and Some Danish Pastries” before we embark on the title track, “Camel Walk”. You may also notice the cross-cultural pollination of jazz, singer/songwriter style, avant garde and indie rock flavorings. Further on, we are introduced to Kannegaard’s impeccable technique and expressiveness, as well as through “Sliding Doors”, “Traveling Pass” and finally, “We Interrupt for a Short Commercial”. It is the welcoming tone of the album overall which places it firmly in one of the most intriguing chamber jazz recordings of the year.
We can hear touches of Kannegaard’s influences, such as the music of Keith Jarret and Bill Evans in her improvisational skills, and in the disjointed melodic structures of Geri Allen and Herbie Nichols, two composers and performers very near to her heart. However, it is her own style that breaks through, and fused with Thomas Strønen’s always perceptive percussion and Ole Morten Vågan’s artfully syncopated bass, it all comes together as an organic whole, a true hallmark of Norwegian jazz.
The piano trio never sounded so modern, yet respectfully pays tribute to the traditions of the past, however enveloping them in Kannegaard’s forward-looking style. Produced by the trio themselves, “Camel Walk” places them firmly in a new direction, more immediate and powerful, and marks Maria Kannegaard as a vibrant force within the jazz arena.