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Anders Jormin: Touching the Heart and Spirit

John Kelman By

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"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."

Silvae

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

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