Piano trios sometimes arrive on a wave of curiosity and acclaim, a word of mouth created somewhere else first.
This was definitely the case with Swiss trio Vein, the piano player and drummer Arbenz brothers Michael and Florian joined by bassist Thomas Lähns still very much unknown in the UK when they released Vote for Vein last year.
Following quick fire touring with former MBASE saxophonist Greg Osby and then Jazz Talks their lively highly virtuosic most recent album featuring their guest here at the Vortex former Miles Davis saxophonist Dave Liebman they’re now becoming very big cheeses indeed among the new wave of piano trios striking out internationally.
What’s their secret? Well that’s hard to say on a first listen live. But above all they gel as a unit driven by the amazing pianism of the baseball cap-wearing Michael Arbenz. Liebman was on superb form and highlights for me included ‘Negative Space’ and when the NEA Jazz Master Liebman switched at one point from wooden recorder deliberately overblowing and squalling at the top of its register to step down to mould to the key of the soprano saxophone it was one of those moments that lifted the music into new areas folding an ancient Eastern mysticism into a modern jazz setting. Tonally magnificent particularly on tenor saxophone there was plenty of energy in the two sets emanating both from Liebman and the trio.
Of the original new album material ‘Black Tortoise’ an easy highlight was definitely the pick here too and towards the end of the evening the flat cap-wearing Florian Arbenz came out of his shell a little more and this was good to witness as more space was clawed back by him at the kit. An abiding overall impression was the sheer athleticism and joy in Michael Arbenz’s vaulting sense of abandon and his punchy left hand vamps did much to hold the big turn-out at the Vortex rapt for long spells.