Few artists could call an album The Nature of Connections
with as much veracity as Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen. There's been the myriad of collaborations on his own albumsjust a small handful of the contributors to recordings including Places of Worship
(Rune Grammofon, 2013), Cartography
(ECM, 2008), Strjon
(Rune Grammofon, 2007) and Chiaroscuro
(Rune Grammofon, 2004) including producers/Punkt Festival co-directors Jan Bang
and Erik Honore
; bassist Lars Danielsson
; drummer Audun Kleive
mates, keyboardist Ståle Storløkken and guitarist Helge Sten; singers David Sylvian
and Trio Mediaeval
's Anna Maria Friman; guitarist Eivind Aarset
; and pianist Christian Wallumrod
. And that doesn't account for the even greater number of liaisons that have taken place beyond his own workthis year, for example, when asked who she would like to collaborate with at the Punkt Festival's 10th Anniversary, guest Laurie Anderson
chose Henriksen, but the trumpeter has also joined up for musical meetings, both live and recorded, with everyone from Bill Frisell
, Jon Hassell
and Sinikka Langeland
, to Gavin Bryars
, Imogen Heap and Jon Balke
And so, an album with a title like The Nature of Connections
has a special meaning for the increasingly in-demand but, more recently, career-focused Henriksen. While he has, over the past two decades, honed a most personal approach to his instrument that sings, at times, with the gentle breath of a shakuhachi and at other times the more assertive stance of an Alpine horn, the majority of his work has, in some way, shape or form, involved the use of electronics, whether it's live sampling, use of preexisting samples and programs, or the application of effects to his already distinctive sound. The Nature of Connections
dispenses with all thatan all-acoustic album where, other than a little bit of piano, he focuses solely on trumpet and piccolo trumpet.
A first for Henriksen, the trumpeter collaborates with four string players of significance and note: violinist Nils Okland
, whose whisper-light work on albums like Bris
(Rune Grammofon, 2005), Lysøen: Hommage à Ole Bull
(ECM, 2011) and, with the 1982 trio, 1982 _BJ Cole
(Hubro, 2012), has demonstrated that there is, indeed, a place where Norwegian traditionalism, centuriesspanning classicism and contemporary improvisation can meet; violinist Gjermund Larsen
, who may be younger than Økland, but has already carved a name for himself, both as a leader on recordings like Reise
(Grappa, 2013) and with the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble, heard most recently on Outstairs
(ECM, 2013); cellist Svante Henryson, known internationally for his work with pianist Ketil Bjornstad
on the sublime Night Song
(ECM, 2011) and Jon Balke's Magnetic North Orchestra, last heard on the Magnetic Works 1993-2001
(ECM, 2012) collection; and double bassist Mats Eilertsen
who, beyond ECM albums with The Source
( The Source
, 2006), and pianists Wolfert Brederode
, 2011) and Tord Gustavsen
( Extended Circle
, 2014), has a small but growing discography of his own, including trio albums like Sails Set
(Hubro, 2013) and, with his quintet, SkyDive
But The Nature of Connections
is more than just about collaboration with performers; Henriksen also looks to others for compositional contribution. Everyone in the group with the exception of drummer Audun Kleive, who appears on a handful of tracks, delivers a piece (two, in the case of Eilertsen and Henryson), while on the gloriously delicate and appropriately titled "Arco Akropolis," the entire group is crediteda spontaneous composition that begins with one Hardanger fiddle but slowly picks up both momentum and thematic interaction as Henriksen adds a piano suspension over which a haunting trumpet line emerges, only briefly, as the four-minute miniature winds its way to a whisper-like conclusion.
The only non-performing compositional contributor is Ståle Storløkken, whose gently moving "Hymn" is yet one more revelation about a keyboardist, composer and arranger who, every time it appears that his upper limits have been found, surprises with yet another example of even great musical reach. It's a long distance from this music to his organ power trio Elephant9
, his noise improv work with Henriksen in Supersilent, and his progressive rock leanings on Motorpsycho
's The Death Defying Unicorn
(Rune Grammofon, 2012), but if this beautifully constructed confluence of strings, lightly brushed drums and a theme doubled by trumpet and violinat nearly eight minutes, The Nature of Connections
' longest trackis indicative of anything, it's that Storløkken is a musician whose interests run far and wide, and whose potential is only limited by the endless possibilities of music itself.
Henriksen's sole compositional contribution, the opening "Blå Veg," gives credit to the entire group for its arrangement, which suggests that Henriksen may be responsible for its soft, Arcadian melody, but the way that the strings interactallowing the piece to ebb and flow dynamicallyis an in-the-moment construction that demonstrates, from the get-go, the trumpeter's astute instincts for bringing together a group of players with near-instantaneous chemistry. The Nature of Connections
also demonstrates the significance of context. Eilertsen's "Aceh" has been recorded before, first on his own Radio Yonder
(Hubro, 2009) and then with Wolfert Brederode on Post- Scriptum
, but here, with string lines moving from the background to full-on blending with Henriksen's tarter tone, and with delicately percussive arco evolving into soaring lines that converge into chordal support for the trumpeter, it's an interpretation few might have expected from this admittedly broad-scoped bassistbut upon hearing this vivid, classically informed version, perhaps not so surprising after all.
Larsen contributes the album's most unabashedly folkloric piece with "Hambopolskavalsen." Introduced with contrapuntal lines from Henryson and Eilertsen's pizzicati, over which Larsen and Økland layer a theme gradually picked up by Henriksen until, with Kleive softly driving the pulse and Eilertsen switching to deeper, more robust support, everything converges into a passage of such gentle lyricism that it evokes both a feeling of antiquity and utterly timelessness, not to mention images of millennial forests and starker, windswept landscapes. Økland's "Budbringeren" elicits similar imagery, but with deep, swelling, bowed strings in the lower register contrasting pizzicato in the upper, it's a more epic composition, even though it only lasts just over six minutes.
Henryson's "Seclusive Song" is filled with moments of significant silence, while the more song-like "Keen"its abstruse yet paradoxically singable melody doubled by trumpet and fiddlefeatures a cello solo that is one of the album's most dramatic high points, blending bow-struck strings, pedal tone-bolstered arco, and some unexpectedly bluesy phrasing.
Throughout, what is, perhaps, The Nature of Connections
' greatest strength is Henriksen's generosity at sharing the entire 43-minute suite of nine compositions with his musical partners. In many ways a solo album in name only, The Nature of Connections
says as much about Henriksen's collaborative nature as it does the strength of purpose and vision he has demonstrated in bringing this superlative collective together. An album that stands out in the trumpeter's discography for many reasons, perhaps the most important one is its fully egalitarian approach to everything from composition to collectively interpreted performance. Surprisingly all-acoustic but, unsurprisingly, entirely beautiful, The Nature of Connections
is yet another milestone in the career of an artist who seems capable of nothing less, each and every time.