Dr. Bekken Trio – In Fonk We Trust
Blue Mood Records – 2020
8 Tracks; 57 minutes
Tor E. “Dr” Bekken is considered one of Norway’s top representatives of traditional blues and jazz piano. Bekken is clearly inspired by Professor Longhair and Dr. John, but for Bekken the “Dr” is more than just a nickname. He actually holds the title of Assistant Professor of Music at Sør-Trøndelag University College, and completed his dissertation on Piano Tradition in New Orleans. (He also holds a Master’s degree in English Literature, with a specialization in African-American poetry.)
While other musicians have seemed less-than inspired during the pandemic, Bekken had three releases during 2020, including a five-song solo EP of all original music, and a three-track EP of Bekken playing guitar instead of piano, with all three instrumental tracks totally improvised. His latest release, In Fonk We Trust, was recorded live, in concert at Lillehammer Mikrobryggeri (a microbrewery). The recording appears to do a great job of capturing the experience of hearing a live performance by the Bekken Trio (with Mattis Kleppen on bass and Dag Kittilsen on drums), minus any problematic crowd noise. This trio has been together for several decades, and the tightness of the trio and their ability to predict each other’s next actions are evident.
The album begins with a rousing Boogie Woogie track entitled “St. Pete,” which makes listeners wish they were present in person at the microbrewery. That track is followed by a medley of “Big Chief/Hey Now Baby/Fire it Up,” which includes a nice bass solo by Kleppen. Bekken’s trio then does excellent renditions of the old familiar songs, “Cherry Red” and “You Can’t Lose What You Never Had.” Bekken’s phenomenal piano work is consistent throughout all the tracks, although there are some particularly outstanding piano solos featured on “Put on Train” and “Stoop Down.” The finale, “Pinetop” provides a rollicking, exciting finish, including another great bass solo by Kleppen.
The one slightly weak area on this album is the vocals, as Bekken has limited range and somewhat inconsistent tone. However, the superior musicianship of all three artists more than makes up for that. If you are a fan of New Orleans style piano playing, you will enjoy this, and I believe Professor Longhair and Dr. John would approve of this album if they were still alive today.
The album is available at selected retailers.