Cadence Magazine Review: "The Adventures of the Dan Karlsberg Group"

It was astonishing, having just popped pianist Dan Karlsberg’s first group recording into the player, to hear John Coltrane’s “Creation" theme hurtling out at me. Never officially released, this gemmy fragment, here incorporated into a Karlsberg original called “Monk’s Dance," bespeaks the work of a real listener, one whose absorption of and reflection on this music necessitates homage. We are then treated to a vigorously interregistral reworking of that beautiful little chromatic motive, every member of the trio firing on all cylinders. Far from just a freak fest though, Karlsberg proves himself and his companions quite the students of history, hair-pin dynamic changes also signaling introductions of alternate eras that are then reabsorbed into the fluid texture.
The rest of the disc does not disappoint, as this is a group functioning on the highest level of communication and commitment. Even on the charmingly simple “Pure Imagination," the pianist pulls a pithy chunk out of the opening dissonances to fashion his solo. The third part of the Magdelena series features some great contributions from Whipple, while the second part is a showcase for Sandy Suskind’s modal flute work. On “Pure Imagination" and “Home in the ‘Nati," we are treated to the hot-but-cool vocals of Mica Darley, her phrasing smooth and edgy enough to maintain interest and convey the mixed sentiments of the track, a haunting tableau of oncoming winter and the appreciation of home.
I have avoided making the seemingly obligatory trio comparisons, chiefly because this trio is so versed in the multifarious language of the piano trio that any single comparison is useless. If I say that the waltz treatment of “I’m in the Mood for Love" harkens back to some of Bill Evans’ 1960s work, it is only one aspect of this group’s accomplishment. They tackle freedom and restraint with equal vigor, convincing on whatever musical front they choose. The disc is a fine maiden voyage, and I have no doubt we’ll be hearing from them again soon, an opportunity I welcome.

Marc Medwin

©Cadence Magazine 2008