Arild Andersen/Paolo Vinaccia/Tommy Smith
Norwegian double bassist Arild Andersen previewed this album in Scotland with his trio towards the end of last year and, if anything, the recorded versions of these tunes actually top the live experience. They're mostly ballads - both jazz, including a gorgeous reading of Burt Bacharach's Alfie, and folk, as witness the closing Stevtone - and neither Andersen nor his now long-time associate, saxophonist Tommy Smith, has ever sounded so bewitching. Andersen's tone has always been a thing of beauty and his playing here is by turns robustly supportive, subtly suggestive and pliantly probing while Smith plays with a tenderness and sonic awareness that are simply wonderful. It's a mostly three-way conversation - Smith, on the Japanese wooden flute (the shakuhachi), duetting with drummer Vinaccia on Raijin - that explores the almost inconsolable Bygone with great sensitivity and, on the marvellously relaxed Blussy, updates the gospel jazz of Keith Jarrett's classic Belonging so successfully that you half expect the great pianist to join in at any moment.