Trygve Seim is a Norwegian saxophonist whose first recording, Distant Rivers received very positive press in 2001. Sangam, which means "coming together" in Sanskrit, is his second release as a leader. It is an apt title, as this recording demonstrates a vast combination of styles. The instrumentation alone gives the music a unique quality. Accordion, bass saxophone, contrabass clarinet, cello, string ensemble, tuba, french horn, trombone, clarinet, bass clarinet, trumpet, and drums converge to create a flowing, ethereal picture that defies easy categorization. At times we hear a big band, next a single instrument, with a myriad of other combinations in between.
This recording is much more about the overall feeling of the compositions than individual solos. Two very noticeable features often missing in today's music are spacing and dynamics; not so with this ensemble. Seim weaves periods of near silence, long pedal tones and sporadic individual solos into a meditative structure quite different from traditional jazz voicings. Seldom do all players arrive in the same space together. If this were painting, colors would sit individually against plenty of black, mixing together in sweeping flows before dissolving into space. Tempi are rather slow throughout, never breaking beyond a relaxed walk.
For an excellent example of how all these elements fit together, check out "Beginning and Ending. A beautiful melody set against traditional harmony sounds fresh and adventurous given Seim's vision. As if coming out of a cave, deep brass tones slowly build, drums are added to provide a framework and a haunting trumpet emerges. Cello and trombone follow, eventually leading the ensemble to a crescendo, signaling a languid return to the tune's beginning.
Seim is heard sparingly as a featured soloist. His tone and choice of notes immediately suggest a Northern European quality common to music from this area. A fine example of this is found in "Prayer, which also uses the accordion to extend a spiritual effect. As in the rest of these compositions, written portions of the score merge flawlessly with improvisational sections, leaving one to concentrate on the whole rather than the parts.
As we have become accustomed to expect from ECM, recording quality is superb. These people set the bar for commercial recordings that approach audiophile standards. Each instrument is distinctly identifiable. Clean pure tones with just a touch of ambience abound. With no obvious studio feeling present, the organic quality of this music shines through. If you like jazz that is the antithesis of frantic solos and displays of technique, you will find this a welcome listening experience.
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