Whenever I listen to a Jan Gunnar Hoff album from 2L Recordings, I always think about that razor’s edge between improvisation and adhering to the original composition. Just a few weeks ago, I thought I had an epiphany about the way this Norwegian pianists performs. I’d just listened to Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert played in an exhibit room at either AXPONA or High End 2022, and I thought wow, it’s amazing how organized and melodic these improvisations are. I feel that sometimes with Jan Gunnar Hoff, that he’s riding that whirlwind and just acting as a conduit for some divine inspiration.
After listening to his latest, Home, I see more of the original composition than usual, but I also wonder the actual ration between the music that’s written down and the music that only exists in the moment. Jan Gunnar Hoff is primarily a romantic composer, and the big sound of his piano will sweep you away with its beauty and thunder and its intuition, but that’s juxtaposed with Hoff’s stunning and emotional standards such as “Moon River” and “Summertime.” That makes Home more of a singular piece, with a singular theme, which shouldn’t surprise you with a 2L Recording.
Strangely enough, the story behind this recording is quite improvisational in spirit–2L’s Morten Lindberg asked Jan Gunnar Hoff if he wanted to record solo piano works in the Stormen Concert Hall in Bodø, and the duo decided to let the venue dictate the program based on the sonic results. Home was recorded in two days, and it is exactly as I described: a mix of improvisation and standards that are so fluid that you will no longer care about the thought processes behind it all.
That is the magic of Home, of course, that this is music to drift to, music that helps you dislodge the heaviness of the day. Quite honestly, the first three times I listen to Jan Gunnar Hoff’s performance here I fell asleep–not because it was boring, of course, but because it made me forget about all the problems in the world so I could spend some important me time thinking about nothing. It helps, of course, that the Stormen Concert Hall is a clear and dynamic space, somewhat less warm than the usual Norwegian churches, but Home still emerges as another 2L landmark in sound quality.