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Music Review: Frank Carlberg – Tivoli Trio

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For pianist and composer Frank Carlberg, the cinematic nature of life is irresistible. Life exists in film-like moments and memories, captured through the passage of time with mysterious quality. His Tivoli Trio release is the exploration of those memories and moments in musical fashion, uniting childhood visuals of carnivals and amusement parks with the pristine moods and tones of adulthood.

Carlberg, along with John Hebert on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums, works through 13 compositions that tell stories and cross borders. For Carlberg, the memories of the Tivoli Gardens in his native Helsinki provide many a backdrop for youthful thrills and adventures. Hebert lends his own environment, drawing on experiences of Mardi Gras in his native New Orleans.

The compositions are brave, colorful and energetic. There are moments of excitement and cheer and there are moments of profoundness and consideration.

Also inspired by the films of Federico Fellini and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Carlberg brings a truly visual quality to his compositions.

He begins by setting the table for adventure with the less-than-a-minute blur that is “Fanfare.” It is, to use the composer’s words, “a music box Harlequin that gradually grinds to a halt.” From the introduction builds “Tricks,” a tense and taut exploration of space that opens with Hebert’s inquisitive bass and adds a dramatic but perplexing splash of piano.

After the performers scamper to their places, Tivoli Trio builds up with the aptly-titled “The Chase.” Following a flurry of piano, this excursion flows into a relentless and dizzying exhibition of the group’s talent.

Carlberg, a Brooklyn-based pianist, received his Master’s degree from the New England Conservatory. With the influence of such jazz masters as Geri Allen and Ran Blake, Carlberg began to develop his own sound. His first recording as a leader was Blind Drive and it also featured a trio. Later, he would begin to experiment with his recordings, interspersing political statements in his State of the Union record.

Tivoli Trio is, in a sense at least, a recollection of childhood and simpler times. Songs like “Tumbles” and “Bill’s Hat” showcase fun, unafraid piano, while “Harlequin” dials it down.

All in all, this is a record that proves ultimately charming and enthralling. It is a nearly visual treatment of Carlberg’s youthful explorations and cinematic values, placing the listener right in the middle of the whole grand experience.

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