Trygve Seim: Vanguard of a New Wave
While Seim was living in Denmark he started his own group. "We only played one concert," Seim says, "and the funny thing was that I had Carsten Dahl on piano. At that time he wasn't a pianist, he was a drummer. He was studying jazz drums at the conservatory in Copenhagen, but in his private time he was playing a lot of piano and I heard him, so we started to play together in this quartet. I don't know how good I was at the time, but I remember he played fantastically."
Seim then returned to Norway and studied at the renowned Trondheim conservatory, concentrating on performance. "I had a teacher called Terje Bjerklund," explains Seim, "and he was educated as a classical composer but had started as a jazz pianist; coincidentally he even did some concerts with Dexter Gordon in Oslo in the '60s. Anyway, I did some compositional studies, but not much, it was more just a touch of it, and the emphasis was on performance. Still, I often came to Terje, as he had written some very nice compositions for string orchestra. So when I came to his office when I was writing small compositions and didn't know what to do with them, he was always very helpful with ideas, with ways to solve problems, so I learned more from these private conversations with him than I did from the classes."
Seim was to meet another artist, familiar to ECM fans, while studying at Trondheim. "I met pianist Christian Wallumrød," Seim says, "and we started a quartet called Airamero. We actually met at the auditions for Trondheim, found each other in a similar musical landscape and we were both very eager to get out and play, so we booked some concerts and played a lot with that group. Of course when I listen to it now there is some influence from the Jarrett/Garbarek group, but also Tore Brunborg. Tore is a great saxophonist who was also a strong influence. I first heard him when he was playing with Masqualero and he still is, to me, one of the most interesting and overlooked Norwegian saxophone players; when I hear him still, it really touches me."
Airamero developed enough of a reputation that when they contacted trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, sent him a CD, and asked if he'd like to play some concerts with them, he readily agreed. "We played one tour with Kenny Wheeler," Seim explains, "seven concerts that had a great impact on my musical development; it was a terrific experience playing his music and our music with him. While Airamero was playing mainly compositions by Christian and myself, Kenny was one of the people that we had listened to a lot, and we actually played some of his songs before we did the tour, so it was a great experience to play those songs with him. He's such a gentle man, and I learned a great deal about playing this kind of music from him, that week was an education for all of us."
Airamero recorded one CD for the Norwegian Odin label, which was significant in that it was also the beginning of Seim's relationship with drummer Per Oddvar Johansen, with whom Seim continues to collaborate to this day.
But as influential as artists including Wheeler, Brunborg, Garbarek and Gordon were, the two most important influences on Seim's ultimate direction were Finnish drummer/composer Edward Vesala and Norwegian pianist/composer Jon Balke. Seim's two records can, in fact, be described as the gentler side of Vesala taken to the next level. "It's funny you should say that," says Seim. "Edward's albums could be somewhat schizophrenic. My history with Edward began with a concert I saw in '91 or '92 at the Molde Jazz Festival. He played with his group Sound and Fury, and I didn't know anything about him but went to this concert and didn't understand a thing about what they were doing! It was kind of frightening to see them live; I remember Jon Balke, also a very meaningful person to me, saying it was so fantastic. And so, because I didn't understand a thing, I had to go and buy a record of his. So I bought Invisible Storm and I listened to it over and over again and it just became more and more fantastic. I have all his ECM records as well as some others, but Invisible Storm is, I think, the pearl, an absolutely incredible record."
"Later on I was playing in Finland, not far from where he lived in the countryside," Seim continues, "so we just called him, went to his house and he was very welcoming. We ate lunch with him and spent the day talking music with him. And then, a couple of years later in '96 I was together with Hasse Poulson, a Danish guitarist, and some other Swedish people, and we were arranging a music festival in Sweden, which we did for three years. This festival was to be about different styles of musicclassical and jazz, it was supposed to be about music without any boundaries. So we invited Edward to play with his own group, Sound and Fury, but he couldn't do it with them and so it was he who suggested we play together. So we did a show with his wife Iro Haarla on piano and harp, and that was a fantastic experience.
"Edward said that we had to continue," concludes Seim, "and nothing could have made me happier. While we played together until '99, there was a period where we didn't work because I was thinking of quitting playing. I had moved out to the countryside by myself, thinking about everything, but then in '99 we put together a quartet with Iro, but we only managed to do one concert and then Edward died a month later."
While Vesala never received the broader international credit that was his due, he did gain some level of notoriety. But there was a darker side that Seim saw. "When you listen to his records," says Seim, "you hear a very sudden development in orchestration and instrumentation. That is very much because of his association with Iro, who is educated as a classical composer. When they married they started to write all the music together, but that's really the dark side of Edward. He didn't credit Iro for any of these collaborations, he took all the credit, and as a result there are two very bad consequences. First, when Iro records today she is accused of being a copy of Edward when in fact it was collaborative, and if you listen to his recordings you can hear, 'now he's married to Iro,' because the music changes significantly. The other thing is that, because he had children from a previous marriage, Iro doesn't receive any of the copyright/royalty money that is her due.
"Iro wanted us to continue our collaboration after Edward passed away," concludes Seim, "so she did a couple of tours of Finland where I came and played with different drummers. Edward actually has a daughter who played on one of the tours. She's a fantastic free drummer, plays exactly like Edward, but she doesn't want to do that, she wants to play in punk bands, and gets so angry when her mother convinces her to play with her. Anyway, we did these couple of tours and I talked to Manfred Eicher about them, that I really think Iro should do her own record. And so we have recorded a new record for ECM that will be released under her own name, with drummer Jon Christensen, trumpeter, Matthias Eick and bassist Uffe Krokfors. The music is all hers, she's really written some fantastic stuff and it's so great to be able to play with her because she has a special way of writing that comes out of her collaboration with Edward. The album will have a stronger improvisational element than some of Edward's later albumsInvisible Storm, for example, was almost all composition. Anyway, the record is finished and mixed, and will hopefully be out by the fall of 2005."