It may be frustrating when an artist releases albums infrequently, but when quality trumps quantity all is forgiven. Swedish bassist Anders Jormin's discography as a leader remains smalljust eleven records as a leader since his auspicious 1988 Dragon debut, Eight Pieces
. Still, with a high profile résumé sporting fellow ECM label mates such as pianist Bobo Stenson
, saxophonist Charles Lloyd
, trumpeters Tomasz Stanko
and Don Cherry
, and violinist Mark Feldman
, Jormin's recorded output may be relatively diminutive, but it's consistently superb, capitalizing on his distinctively lyrical approach and broader pan-musical concerns.
His previous ECM release, 2004's In Winds, In Light
(forgetting that despite Xieyi
being released Stateside in 2005, it was first released in Europe in 2001), was a compelling song cycle that, despite its inherent form, gave Jormin's group plenty of space both interpretively and in more decidedly free contexts. There's no shortage of form on Ad Lucem
either, but this suite of compositions, originally commissioned for Swedish Jazz Celebration 2010, goes to even greater extremes, in no small part due to the participation of clarinetist and saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist
, Mikko Innanen
& Innkvisitio) and drummer Jon Fält (Lekverk
, The Deciders
In other groups, both Ljungkvist and Fält (who, with Jormin, is in Bobo Stenson's ongoing trio
) explore the outer reaches of improvisation with an irrepressible sense of mischief and tongues often planted firmly in cheeks; the performances are no less exceptional and freewheeling here, but Ad Lucem
is a more serious record mainly revolving around Jormin's music and predominantly Latin lyricsalso composed by the bassist, with the exception of the darkly quirky "Inter simper et numquam," setting Danish poet Pia Tafdrup's words to music.Ad Lucem
's two vocalistsMariam Wallenti (Wildbirds & Peacedrums) and Erika Angelipossess lovely, mellifluous and pliant voices, harmonizing beautifully, whether it's on the opening "Hic et nunc," where Fält's tribal toms create a softly rumbling underscore to Jormin's focused flights of fancy, or the more evolutionary "Quibus," where the bassist's opening solo slowly but inevitably leads to form and pulse. But on the album's only completely free piece, "Vigor," both singers demonstrate greater breadth still, recalling the more expansive textural, rhythmic and at times guttural experiments of Jeanne Lee
and Sidsel Endresen
Elsewhere, the music moves from hushed melancholy to extreme expressionism, with Wallenti and Angeli orbiting around each other to create a gentle sense of release when they finally conjoin on "Lux" and the instrumental "Cæruleus," which dissolves into one of the album's most expressionistic moments, as Ljungvkist's tenor scores a frenetic path through the equally unfettered Fält and Jormin.
Whether it's soaring extemporization or calming quietude and pensive sadness, Jormin's warm pizzicato and rich arco remain a focal point. Despite being as collaborative as In Winds, In Light
, Ad Lucem
remains defined by Jorminone of but a very few players of this low register instrument who can truly make a bass sing
. Separated by years they may be, but any new recording from Jormin proves well worth the wait and Ad Lucem
is no exception.
Personnel: Mariam Wallentin: voice; Erika Angeli: voice; Fredrik Ljungkvist: clarinets, tenor saxophone; Anders Jormin: double bass; Jon Fält: drums.