Carole Nelson Trio: Arboreal review – elegant work from a rare talent

Second album from Zrazy co-founder expresses ‘the living reality of a forest’

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Artist: Carole Nelson Trio
Genre: Jazz
Label: Blackstairs Records

Similar to her 2017 debut album, One Day in Winter, Carole Nelson’s follow-up traces a linear narrative. Where the debut’s concept could be perfectly explained by its title, however, Arboreal has a rustle of leaves about it, a hint of a sylvan enigma.

It transpires that the themes behind it focus on footprints of the leave-no-trace variety, while the music, says Nelson in her liner notes, expresses “the living reality of a forest – from the mycelium network beneath my feet to the sheltering canopy above, with a sense of the deep interconnection of all living things”.

The instrumental output (and this includes voice) achieves what many don’t: a genuine symbiosis between theme and music.

Nominally, the music is jazz akin to the Nordic trio style of rippling improvisations and circuitous melody lines, but pianist/vocalist Nelson (along with bass player Cormac O’Brien and drummer Dominic Mullan) adds tonal sensibilities that bring to mind intuitive collaborations between the likes of Bill Evans (perhaps too obvious a reference point here) and any of your favourite contemporary electronica composers.


The music, which is tenderly, graciously delivered, is allowed to discover itself in tracks such as Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Medicine), Canopy, No Mud No Lotus and – perhaps pivotally – the nine-minute-plus Requiem for Lost Species.

It all amounts to a particularly elegant piece of work from a rare and quite likely undervalued talent.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture