Stefan Orins Trio: The Middle Way

review orins x1 cong

The Stefan Orins Trio has gigged extensively, which means a tight band and each player understanding the others. If we said this was a modern jazz album written by a pianist, you might have an expectation of what it would sound like, short on melody, lots of piano, a little technical. It is these things but the understanding between the players gives it a nice organic feel, so it never feels too mechanical.

This is out on French label Circum-Disc, which says the band is inspired by the Buddhist maxim “The deeper the roots, the more luxuriant the branches”; “The Middle Way” itself was the Buddha’s big idea, after trying a life of luxury and then extreme asceticism.

Orins is also inspired by Scandinavian nature, with its open spaces but and rich vegetation. Like rich vegetation, this is a complex album, and not one to really write about; we kept getting engrossed in the vibe and forgetting what track was playing.

There is some division between a side one and two, the first half being the more Buddhist influenced. Chu kicks the album off with some piano, laying down a gentle pattern while the double bass and percussion do faster work behind, though it goes a bit late night at the end.

Ku is more complex, after a simple start (“ku” being the transcription of the Sanskrit word sunyata, “all things are empty of intrinsic existence and nature”), with a bass solo, tingsha (prayer cymbals, we think, though maybe not) and a tight, impressive drum solo.

After these three the song titles are more regular the music more muscular and modern, though Petales au Vent is slower. It is modern jazz, and ranges between the melodic and the more unpredictable, but it’s got a good live feel to it.

Out on Circum-Disc.

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