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Lisa Ullen / Nina de Heney / Okkyung Lee / Mariam Wallentin

Eyal Hareuveni By

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The duo of acclaimed Swedish improvisers pianist Lisa Ullén and double bassist Nina de Heney, winner of the Swedish radio prize Jazzkatten for 2012 as the musician of the year, has been active now for more than four years and was documented on the remarkable double album Carve (LJ Records, 2009). Ullén and de Heney managed to articulate a highly personal musical language, organically sculpting sounds into detailed sonic textures. In 2011 the duo chose to expand its musical spectrum and to collaborate with two like-minded creative musicians, cellist Okkyung Lee and vocalist fellow Swedish Mariam Wallentin.

Lisa Ullén / Nina de Heney / Okkyung Lee

Look Right

LJ Records


Lee has performed and recorded with innovative free improvisers from both sides of the Atlantic such as saxophonist Evan Parker, pianist Steve Beresford and trumpeter Peter Evans but this is her first collaboration with the duo of Ullén and de Heney. This recording was made in one of the first performances of the newly found trio, at the Nefertiti club in Göteborg, Sweden.

Lee's intense playing blends naturally with Ullén and de Heney. The three create sensitive, lightning-fast and responsive sound universes, negotiated patiently but focused on common instincts and emphatic intuition. Each of the seven instant free improvisations has its own distinct character. The first one, "Lucid Neon," begins with exploration of sounds similar to birds chatter and blossoms as a delicate and poetic talk, and employs extended techniques applied on the strings. The second one, "Easel," confronts the energetic playing of de Henry and Lee with the piano of Ullén.

De Heney leads "Uncoiled Tint" with imaginative and powerful playing on the bass strings and its wooden body, leaving enough room for Ullén and later Lee to introduce an almost jazzy abstraction of de Heney lines. The energetic, dense clutters of the bows on "Easel 2" is punctuated wisely by Ullén, who later sets a more open-ended course. The title piece is another imaginative experiment with the sonic possibilities of strings—touching, rubbing, use them to create reverberating and percussive sounds, inside the piano strings or simply bowing them—slowly morphing these arresting searches into nuanced texture. Ullén's idiosyncratic vocabulary on the piano is presented best on "Icon Untitled," where she forms dramatic and subtle sonic clusters, immediately answered by de Heney and Lee. The last improvisation, "Utopian Sigh," is serene and spare in its spirit, as if the trio decided to let the sounds grow and find their own impressionistic way.

Look Right is a fantastic demonstration of free improvisation that keeps revealing more and more beautiful sounds and sonic interactions with each new listening.

Lisa Ullén-Nina de Heney duo feat. Mariam Wallentin




Wallnetin is half of the art-rock duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums, with partner, drummer Andreas Werliin (member of Mats Gustafsson's Fire!), and she is also known as Mariam the Believer, who released recently a beautiful solo album, Blood Donation (Repeat Until Death, 2013).

Wallentin brings to the duo of Ullén and de Henry a like-minded rebellious, genre-binding approach, one that is focused on the song format and lyrics. She finds the two enjoying exploring the worlds of soul, rock and world music. This vinyl only, 4-song EP was recorded at the studio in Umeå, northern Sweden.

"Will Never Find" is unorthodox love ballad stressing yearning. The dark color of Wallentin's voice blends organically with the dark, deeper tones of de Heney bass and Ullén piano. "Seven Women" flirts with African-tinged string instruments sounds as the West African harp, the kora, creating a dreamy, funky new world soundscape. "Pray" begins as Far Eastern religious ritual percussive music but quickly gains momentum as a stormy, piano-driven rhythmical exploration of sounds, reminiscent of David Bowie's "Station to Station" agitated guitar introduction. The last song, "The Rainbow," is a short, touching song about the place beyond the rainbow, where silence is voluminous as any sound.

Surprising and beautiful. This trio has just began to explore its great potential.

Tracks and Personnel

Look Right

Tracks: Lucid Neon; Easel; Uncoiled Tint; Easel 2; 2 Tales; Icon Untitled; Utopian Sigh.

Personnel: Lisa Ullén: piano, prepared piano; Nina de Heney: double bass; Okkyung Lee: cello.


Tracks: Will Never Find; Seven Women; Pray; The Rainbow.

Personnel: Lisa Ullén: piano, prepared piano; Nina de Heney: double bass; Mariam Wallentin: voice, percussion.


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