Anders Jormin: Touching the Heart and Spirit

John Kelman By

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At the same time as they were working with Lloyd's quartet, Jormin and Stenson also played in Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's quartet, recording two albums, Matka Joanna and the classic Leosia. The approach to the music, while sharing certain characteristics with Lloyd, was still quite different. "In a way you could say they were sketches," Jormin says, "but at the same time, quite carefully composed, meaning that if you sat down and played what Tomasz wrote, they were very beautiful pieces. But then, when performing, he was not so interested in playing exactly what he wrote, rather he was quite happy with whatever we came up with; he was definitely interested in free improvisation. What it meant was that he composed very beautiful compositions all the time, and we played them the way we wanted, and then the improvisations were free. They could have been excellently played over the form—the chords and harmonic structure of the compositions, because they were great, Tomasz Stanko is a great composer—but he leaves the performance of his music to the moment and he's very happy with that."


While his association with Stanko and Lloyd continued, along with more trio work with Stenson, Jormin continued to pursue his own projects for the Dragon label. Often-times stemming from commissions, Jormin sees that as a huge differentiator between support for the arts in Europe and the United States. "In Europe, in general, there's a bigger support for the arts," says Jormin. "How do we do it? We have high taxes, that's where the money comes from, compared to the United States, where they don't have such high taxes and don't support the arts in the same way. I think it has been especially important in Scandinavia, because our countries are big but with very few people, and should it be at all economically possible to have art spread across the country there must be generous support for it. Norway is, I would say, the best example of a country that supports its arts—they do it very well, and they are very proud of their jazz musicians, their improvising musicians, while Sweden is more into supporting classical music in general, so my kind of music gets only a little of the total amount. But a lot is needed and it's important."


'95's Jord , meaning Earth or Soil, stemmed from a commission for the International Society for Contemporary Music, and featured an unusual quintet of double-bass, vibraphone, keyboards, trumpet and percussion. "The ISCM is a very fine gathering of new music lovers from around the world," Jormin explains, "they have some kind of congress once a year, and it was in Stockholm that year. The host country always gives out a couple of commissions of new music, and I was one of the composers chosen. So it was a commission performed during the ISCM congress. And I did choose, and always choose, musicians I find I have great respect for or musicians that I am very curious about for different reasons.

"I learned, through the years," Jormin continues, "not to choose the instrumentation, meaning I choose the people first, and then see what kind of band I have—is it four harps and a clarinet? Hmm, that's very difficult, so maybe then I think twice, but in general I choose artists that I really appreciate. Rather than looking for a trumpet player, I look for a certain kind of expressiveness, and I had worked with Per Jorgensen, the Norwegian trumpet player who was on that record, through Jon Balke, a Norwegian colleague of mine, and I always admired his presence on stage. He's an excellent performer and inspirational, both for the audience and for his fellow musicians in the playing moment. He's really focused and present; that goes for all the players on Jord , I like them all for different reasons. I like the vibraphone; it's cold but played in the right way, still very warm, and in combination with the electric keyboards it's very rich."

Jord also featured Jorgensen and percussionist Lisbeth Diers singing, and the human voice has a quality that Jormin has ultimately returned to time and again. "Per is well-known, in my part of the world, for his fantastic singing," Jormin says, "while Lisbeth, who I made sing duet with him, had never sung before. So I encouraged her, and sometimes I used my own voice as well. This can be seen as an expression of my deep interest in singing and also my own small efforts to use my voice, not always to great success, but I am working on it—not taking singing lessons, but mentally—so it may be that I'll use my voice more in the future. I actually recorded a vocal piece for Xeiyi , my first solo record on ECM, but Manfred took it away, I guess that tells you something about the level of my singing."


In '98 Jormin recorded another commission, with an intriguing premise. " Silvae is Latin for Forests, and was commissioned by Swedish Radio. Sometimes commissions come with certain conditions, and for this one the condition was that it should be people who had not worked together before. So I put together a sextet with [trumpeter] Arve Henriksen and [guitarist] Marc Ducret, for example, two people who didn't know each other. In fact nobody knew each other besides me and my brother [drummer] Christian.

"Marc Ducret was an interesting choice," continues Jormin. "My choice was not to write music that would fit him, but instead to challenge him. And to challenge Marc Ducret you have to do more structured things, because he is a master of the non-structured, the tough side of music. So I would challenge him this way, and challenge other musicians in other ways; the music ultimately sounded familiar or traditional, but hopefully there's something special with every tune."

The commission, as performed, was split equally between relatively free improvisations and the more structured pieces which, of course, also had plenty of space for exploration. "There is always lots of improvisation in my music," explains Jormin, "because that's what I like, that's where the personality of the players comes through more easily, but in this case we did lots of free improvising with small sketches, or suggestions from me. We were actually talking about releasing Silvae as a double album, but that's where economy comes in—there wasn't the money for it, and since it was a commission I decided together with the producers to use the composed part for the record. We talked about releasing the other material later, but it has never happened; it's also very good. It's somewhere on my shelves, but it will probably never be released."

ECM and Xeiyi

After years contributing to other artists' albums on ECM, Silvae was, in fact, originally intended to be Jormin's first release on the label under his own name. " Silvae was supposed to be an ECM release, but it turned out that the commissioner of that piece, Swedish radio—the government radio—already had a deal with Dragon that I didn't know about, so when ECM found this out they decided they didn't want to be accused of releasing music that actually belonged to another smaller label. Instead we started discussing what to do next, because Manfred was eager for me to record an album for ECM, my having been then playing on maybe nine or ten releases. I had the idea to follow-up Alone , to do it again, to basically do it ten years later and see where I was."

The result was Xeiyi , meaning "to write," or "to compose your thoughts." Recording a second album of solo bass represented its own challenges. "I think Xeiyi was partly a way of challenging myself," explains Jormin, "and also maybe checking myself, seeing if I could do the concept of Alone once again, but even deeper, even better, from my own personal point of view. I think I can hear myself having become a much better bassist. The things I do on Xeiyi are, in a way, much more advanced, much more complex, but the expression and simplicity, at the same time, is the same and that's what I wanted. You can say it's a risk to try and do it again ten years later, because it would be natural to say, 'Now he does it a second time, it's boring' but I got very positive reviews for it as well. I think it is a development of what I did on Alone , to see what I could do with my supposedly-clumsy instrument; how melodic, how easy, how musical can I be on the bass?"

Advanced Techniques and Another Influence

Jormin has developed a number of unusual techniques for the double- bass, many of them influenced by instruments other than his own. "Well, I have spent a few hours on the bass, and developed a couple of playing techniques that are either loaned from other instruments, like the classical guitar, or maybe from Jaco Pastorius on the electric bass. He put bass and melody together somehow, he made the bass a musical instrument. He could play very groovy and very technically advanced, but also very melodically. He was also a great composer. The few things he had time to do were really good, so he was a big influence on me.

"So I invented a few things myself," continues Jormin, "that are already being used by quite a few bassists in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. And they always say that they stole them from me. They're nothing dramatic, just a few playing techniques that slowly spread; once you see somebody do it, it's like, "Oh, this is how he does that!' It's just things people didn't think of.Trust

Xeiyi is differentiated from Alone by more than simply ten years of distance. Breaking up the solo pieces is a series of chamber pieces for brass ensemble that lends the album an even more unique complexion. "I recorded a whole solo bass album with Manfred," Jormin says, "and then later, when it was to be released, Manfred called me up and said, 'Anders, I hear some brass music here.' Then I said, "Oh do you, I don't,' but he still wanted me to consider composing small sketches for brass in order to mix up the album, because that's what he heard, having listened a lot to it. And while I actually said no at first, a whole summer came and went and then I called him up and said, 'OK Manfred, I did some compositions, do you want me to record them?' And so I recorded them without his presence, with four guys from the symphony orchestra here in town, four very, very good players, and Manfred loved it, and scattered the pieces between my bass pieces."

Eicher allows Jormin a quite uncharacteristic degree of freedom with his own records. "I think it comes from the fact," explains Jormin, "that Manfred said to me, 'I trust you Anders, it's almost as if you don't need me.' I think he has some kind of respect for my artistic potential and he also knows there is a certain direction in my music that he has found, and that's what he's looking for most of the time. When there is trust then he doesn't say very much. It's the same way we record with Bobo, he doesn't say very much because there is already a solid concept.

"I have felt a lot of trust from Manfred," continues Jormin. "In other cases, when he finds his schedule makes it impossible for him to come to a recording session as planned, he would just cancel the recording; that's something I have experienced in other situations. But for me he just says, 'Anders, just go on, I trust your music.' I think he knows that when I want to record I have a very good and strong idea behind it, and he's happy with that. I am really happy to feel that I have Manfred's full confidence and I'm very fortunate."


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