“With a dynamic range and timbre second to none, a Steinway is the only piano that leaves absolutely nothing in the way of my musical imagination.”
Espen Berg, born June 30th 1983 in Hamar, is a Norwegian pianist and composer. He lives in Trondheim, where he attained a master’s degree at NTNU’s highly acknowledged jazz department in 2008.
Espen grew up in Hamar, Norway, and his parents are also musicians. He has played the piano his whole life and started composing at the age of 6. He didn’t have any formal musical education until age 16, and at that time he also discovered jazz and free improv through his first piano teacher, Helge Lien. Spending most of his time as a youth in his father’s studio, Espen explored a vast variety of genres and styles and started making his own interpretations of the songs that he loved. At NTNU he teamed up with Bendik Giske (sax) and Daniel Herskedal (tuba), and formed the trio Listen in 2002. They won the Hoeilaart Int’l Jazz Competition in 2004 and played concerts in Europe, Asia and America the following eight years, with tours in Syria and Cuba.
In 2011 Espen started working on his solo project. His first solo album, Noctilucent, was released in 2012 and became the starting point for his career as a band leader. Espen Berg Trio was formed in 2014 with fellow band members Bárður Reinert Poulsen (bass) and Simon Olderskog Albertsen (drums), and it has quickly become his main project, working horse and experimental sandbox. The trio is now considered one of the most influential and innovative piano trios from Norway, touring regularly in Europe and Asia. Their fourth album was released in May 2022, featuring prominent guest artists: Mathias Eick (trp), Hanna Paulsberg (ts) and Silje Nergaard (vocal).
In 2016, Espen was awarded Norway’s largest jazz scholarship, JazZtipendiatet, resulting in a commissioned work for the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra called MAETRIX. This work premiered at Molde Int’l Jazz Festival, and featured a 14 piece orchestra with many of the leading jazz musicians from Norway and Sweden. MAETRIX was recorded in Rainbow Studio in Oslo in 2021 and will be released early 2024.
In 2019, Espen stepped up the game and played his first fully improvised piano concert, which was recorded live in Dokkhuset in Trondheim. This recording was later released as The Trondheim Concert (NXN Recordings, 2022) and received overwhelming reviews from all over Europe and in Japan. Espen was also featured with interviews in Jazzwise (UK), Jazz Views (UK), Jazzism (NL), Jazzthing (DE), Pianist (NL and DE), Jazz Critique Magazine (JP) and The Jazz Rag (UK). The Trondheim Concert marks a new path of his solo project, and was shortly followed by the release of The Nidaros Concert (NXN, 2023) and later also The Hamar Concert (NXN, 2023).
In 2020, Espen was commissioned to write a piece for Jazzfest in Trondheim, Maijazz in Stavanger and Oslo Jazz Festival, which he named Water Fabric. This sextet features high profiled Norwegian musicians with different background, from jazz, Nordic folk music and classical Indian music, to European classical music. Water Fabric was recorded in Rainbow Studios in Oslo in 2023, and will be released in November 2023 on Odin Records.
As a sideman Espen has worked with Hildegunn Øiseth Quartet, Bridges feat. Seamus Blake, A Tonic For the Troops, Anders Grønseth’s Multiverse, Kåre Kolve Quartet, Daniel Herskedal Quintet, Marius Neset and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and Mathias Eick Quintet. He has a duo with Silje Nergaard which is touring extensively in Norway and Europe, and they released a duo album in 2020 at Sony Music Gmbh.
Espen was appointed to NTNU AMBASSADOR together with his trio in 2016. He received government grants from Arts Council Norway in 2016 to 2018 and in 2021, and was awarded with scholarships and prizes from the city of Trondheim in 2016, and from TONO (Norwegian equiv. to ASCAP) in 2014 and 2016. He has worked in committees at Arts Council Norway (2018-2021) and at Nordic Culture Fund (2020-2022). In 2007 he won the prize for being the best soloist at Hoeilaart International Jazz Contest in Belgium, and he was nominated for the annual solo jazz piano competition at Montreux Jazz Festival in both 2012 and 2013. He has been lecturing at the NTNU jazz department since 2007, working with some of the finest and most creative jazz students in Northern-Europe.
Espen is a Steinway Artist.