The tunes are instantly recognizable: well-known standards such as "All The Things You Are", "Over The Rainbow" or "Autumn Leaves". And yet the listener always has the impression of hearing something completely new. On "Painting Music", Danish pianist Carsten Dahl gives his own take on some of the great classics of the jazz repertoire in a way that is highly personal, resolutely individual and completely revelatory.
Born in 1967, Dahl has been one of the outstanding jazz pianists in Europe for many years. He came to instrument very late, however. He started on the drums as a nine-year-old, by the age of 12 he was already well advanced towards becoming a professional, and at 18 was admitted to Copenhagen’s renowned Rhythmic Music Conservatory, where his teachers included one of the greats, US drummer Ed Thigpen. And it was only during his time at RMC that he switched to piano – an instrument on which he had never had a single lesson before that time. So Dahl started his studies all over again, first with Jǿrgen Nielsen, then with his mentor Butch Lacy, whom Dahl still considers to have been his most important influence.
Dahl’s unusual route to becoming a pianist is reflected in the extent of his dedication and also of his self-perceptiveness: “I have never chosen art. It wants something from me, or rather - IT wants something from me and with art as an instrument,” he says. “The universe has a sound and rhythm. Everything moves forward, either powerful and explosive or modest and like slow shadows in a landscape. The energy, which urges me into an artistic unfolding - is the power of the universe. I am painted or played.”
Carsten Dahl’s had good reason to want to connect with art as a primordial force because the scale of his talent was obvious from the outset of his career. His first band project Embla was a sensation on the Danish jazz scene. Then followed an intense period with countless collaborations. Dahl had great success with his own projects, not only playing with major local and Scandinavian figures such as Arild Andersen, Jon Christensen or Cæcilie Norby, but also with international stars like Didier Lockwood, Dave Liebman and Wynton Marsalis. In a career spanning more than 25 years, Dahl has played on more than 250 CDs and produced more than 30 of his own.
The recipient of notable prizes and awards, such as the Ben Webster Award, the Django D'Or, the Carl Nielsen Prize and a Grammy nomination, Carsten Dahl is one of the most wide-ranging and extraordinary artists on the European jazz scene. That said, his personal imprint is unmistakable in all of his diverse projects – from solo recordings to orchestral works, from free jazz to Bach's Goldberg Variations and the Well-Tempered Clavier. His inspiration comes from classical music and jazz as well as folk music, world music and modern music. He also has an intense involvement in painting: the eye-catching cover motif of "Painting Music" is by Dahl himself.
Since it is an ambition of label proprietor/producer Siggi Loch to bring together the best pianists in Europe on ACT, it feels like the time is now right to bring this "musicians’ musician", this carefully-guarded secret, to the attention of a wider public. And nothing could be more appropriate than Dahl's Trinity Trio – who have already compared by critics to Keith Jarrett’s trio – with bassist Nils Bo Davidsen and drummer Stefan Pasborg: "This is my preferred formation. We've been playing together for several years in my bigger band, “Experience”. In this recording it felt like we were all painting together on one canvas, merging our perceptions into a single spirit. This is indeed a rare and very precious experience in music," Dahl remarks.
The eight covers on the album range from a Danish folk song to Miles Davis' "Solar", plus two original compositions written collectively by the band. The trio welcomes the listener into a magical realm. There are always strong melodies here, ushered in gently, which Dahl then takes over with his inexhaustible ingenuity, and the Trinity Trio transforms through joint improvisation into something inherently original. This is a musical painting which will never fail to fascinate and to captivate.