Monokrom (Dimma; 2012)
Scott McLemore (drums)
Porgrimur Jonsson (bass)
Agnar Magnusson (piano)
Taking time off from their more electric outings as ASA Trio, the band members have returned to working on solo material. The first to release new material this year is guitarist, Andres Thor. His third solo album, Monokrom, is a fusion of traditional melodies and modern harmonics. Joining him are his fellow ASA Trio mates and Porgrimur Jonsson on drums. This fully formed quartet brings out the best in each musician over the course of almost 60 minutes.
Thor's sound continues to mature and move from strength to strength but always with calm and a playful attitude, Thor demonstrates an excellence balance between Wes Montgomery tradition and Bill Frisell or John Abercrombie modern folk. "Monokrom" opens with a sense of fruitfulness and pleasure. Soft, romantic tones emitting from Thor's guitar and accompanied with sweet agility by Magnusson. With "Pink Wilco," Thor has written a piece that allows Jonsson and Magnusson to slide in and out seamlessly with his blues like melody.
Thor displays a great deal of passion in his performances throughout Monokrom. That Frisell vibe I spoke of early is noticeable on the folkish ballad "Heima." It has a wonderful and joyous feeling to it that gives a real sense of a travelogue. Injecting a little bit of funk into the session with "1922," Thor and rest of the band begin to flex their muscle. A forceful rhythm from McLemore and penetrating notes by both Jonsson and Magnusson make "1922" a rise and infectious number that is enhanced by the echo of Thor's lap guitar.
"Sjavargrund" is a midtempo ballad with a tinge of Brazilian flavor. Thor's playing feels very comfortable in every setting. McLemore and Jonsson provide smooth lush colors that open the sound for Magnusson's keyboards. "Munchen" is a sharp and intense closing number with the group in full swing. Each member has a shining moment on this track. Magnusson is back on piano with a rich clarity. Jonsson's bass is vibrant and McLemore rips lines with ease. All the while Thor's guitar gently cuts a path for the musicians to follow.
Monokrom is strong work from a group that knows each other inside and out. Here Andres Thor has written the right material that allows not only his musicianship to shine but also illustrates his sense of adventure and ability to move freely in different forms. This is one of those superb outings that every jazz fan would be silly to miss.