I should have known I’d enjoy How Long is Now? when I saw that the drummer was Peter Erskine. Steps Ahead and Weather Report were among my first introductions to jazz and I realised that it didn't have to be worthy and dull. It could groove and that’s got a lot to do with the drumming.
There's a lightness and positivity in this album, the product of Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala, Erskine and bassist Lars Danielsson. Melody is at the forefront and the whole thing feels uncomplicated and engaging, despite some of the tracks crying out for a vocal to add a lyrical aspect.
A mixture of compositions by Rantala are interspersed with Kenny Barron’s Voyage, a beautiful interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing and – somewhat surprisingly – Kyrie by Johann Sebastian Bach which really refines the melody and harmony variations of the trio. Danielsson contributes two tracks and Erskine the driving Each Breath. The former’s Tamsin By Night recalls the eastern sounds of Istanbul and gives even more of an international flavour.
In the age of social media, it’s inevitable that someone like Rantala would compose a piece called Snapchat. There's the joy and immediacy of the photo-posting medium and the lilting melody builds beautifully to an uncomplicated but beautiful bass solo. I enjoy listening to music without knowing much abot the composition or recording process and my favourite track – Trust – feels like there’s a story behind it. A beautiful rendition of the melody with piano and bass almost embodies the trust between two people. Perhaps that’s the story.
In any case, this is a touching album. Rantala has pulled together a great trio who may well never record together again, but How Long is Now? is enough. A beautiful album.
Review: Hilary Robertson