BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Born in Estonia and raised in Germany by musician parents, pianist Kristjan Randalu comes from the classical world. Absence, his third solo album and ECM debut, reflects that training without being some grotesque classical/non-classical hybrid. Randalu’s lyricism and deft ability to traverse the keyboard swiftly and smoothly clearly come from the hours of practice put in, and his melodies draw from the art world as much as outside it. But the jazz side of Randalu’s art stands shoulder-to-shoulder with his formal training. Drummer Marrku Ounaskari keeps things percolating with some swinging cymbal work, while guitarist Ben Monder fills space in the background with atmospheric howls, ringing chords and lush countermelodies. Randalu himself often colors outside of his tunes’ lines, letting his fingers find their way around the tracks back to the main melody. From the shimmering sky of “Forecast” to the burly woods of “Lumi II,” the musicians defy easy comparisons to other classical/non blends – this is not the second coming of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Absence definitively hits its mark with the two-part “Adaptation,” a busy swirl of fleet-fingered piano, enigmatic guitar and nervous drumming that encapsulates Randalu’s multifaceted artistry. Beautiful but not sappy, accessible but not pandering, Absence sets the stage for a rising young artist’s impressive career.
DOWNLOAD: “Adaptation I & II,” “Lumi II,” “Forecast”