Swedish bassist Anders Jormin is familiar to anyone who followed the re-emergence of saxophonist Charles Lloyd and trumpeter Tomasz Stanko on the ECM label in the early 1990snot to mention his longstanding relationship with pianist Bobo Stenson. But since the mid-1980s, Jormin has slowly built his own solid body of work as a leader.
Prior to two ECM releasesXeiyi (2001) and In Winds, In Light (2004), Jormin's work for the Swedish Dragon label included Jord (1995) and Silvae (1999). The strengths of those recordings were due in no small part to the participation of Finnish vibraphonist Severi Pyysalo, a player largely unknown outside of Scandinavia, but deserving of the same recognition as Joe Locke, Gary Burton and Steve Nelson.
In many ways it was inevitable that Jormin and Pyysalo would team up for a duet record, and Aviaja speaks to both artistsâ???? strengths as improvisers, composers and interpreters. It shows that one need not sacrifice integrity for accessibility, since this is the most immediately approachable album of Jormin's career as a leader or co-leader.
While he possesses the kind of technical facility that makes most bassists scratch their head in wonder, Jormin has always been more concerned with making his instrument sing, and playing music that touches the heart in the most personal of ways. Pyysalo is clearly like-minded. The result is that while the music on Aviaja often takes unpredictable twists and turns, it remains eminently lyrical, and compelling on the deepest of levels.
Aviaja's intimacy is so personal that it almost feels like intruding on a private conversation. While things occasionally become heatedas they do on the free piece "Everywhere" and Pyysalo's more propulsive "Aamos"the ambience is generally soft, the approach delicate. The duo's clear affection and refined elegance recalls Hotel Hello (ECM, 1975)a similar meeting of minds between Gary Burton and bassist Steve Swallow that is nevertheless an entirely different album. Still, like Burton and Swallow, Jormin and Pyysalo clearly understand the jazz tradition that lies at the foundation of Aviaja; but equally they blend in elements of classical impressionism and folk music from their respective Swedish and Finnish cultures.
It's their steadfast devotion to song that makes Aviaja so warmly inviting. While the majority of the disc is live, there's the occasional overdub, as with Jormin's arrangement of Cuban tunesmith Silvio Rodriguez's "Olivia," where Pyysalo adds melodica to the mix. Pyysalo also plays melodica on the intro to Jormin's "T"an even more poignant version than the one on Bobo Stenson's Serenity (ECM, 2000).
The two players aren't averse to moving into darker territoryas they do on the spontaneously created "Elder and Honey," featuring Jormin's singing arco, and Pyysalo's stark "May 11th." But for the most part, Aviaja is filled with optimism and a sense of joy. Full of meaningful and spontaneous dialogue where memorable melodies are the points of departure, Aviaja remains vivid long after the final song is over.