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Andreas Ulvo + Slagr: Softspeaker

Eyal Hareuveni By

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The music of Norwegian pianist Andreas Ulvo—a member of the Eple Trio and Karl Seglem's acoustic quartet—commutes naturally between the worlds of modern jazz, contemporary classical music, Norwegian folk music and even pop songs. All these musical universes are melted organically to his collaboration with Norwegian contemporary folk music ensemble Slagr.

The aptly titled Softspeaker describes beautifully this collaborative effort. Ulvo's calm, highly melodic and reserved piano playing has much in common with the warm, trance-like ambiances of the Slagr trio as featured in its Straum, stille (Ozella, 2011). The ensemble's unique interplay creates light, evocative and chamber- like soundscapes, each with profound emotional impact.

All nine compositions, penned by Ulvo, are unique gems. "Midwinter" has a haunting, contemplative and dark mood, reflecting the effect of a typical Norwegian winter. "Star song" has a timeless aroma, owing much to impressionist hardanger fiddler Anne Hytta, cellist Sigrun Eng and Ulvo's captivating, repeated theme. "Catalan winds" sounds even more archaic, with Hytta's introduction to Ulvo's meditative ruminations. Ulvo deepens this hypnotic mood during his solo exploration, "Preludium II"—similar to the exploration "Preludium," from Ulvo's solo album, Light and Loneliness (Atterklang, 2010).

"Old soul" unfolds patiently with another timeless, seamless and meditative melody. The touching, dance-like "Folk" is defined by Ulvo's insistent chords court, embracing Slagr's sensual dance. The softly minimalist "In the darkest hour" has a trance-like quality, while "Subaquatic psalm" possesses an even deeper, sparer sound—still, and light as a feather. Ulvo's solo on the concise closer, "Hanglete," offers another experience of intense tranquility.

A magnificent, haunting set of melodies and moods.

Track Listing: Midwinter; Star song; Catalan winds; Preludium II; Old soul; Folk; In the darkest hour; Subaquatic psalm; Hanglete.

Personnel: Andreas Ulvo: piano, Rhodes, Casio; Anne Hytta: hardanger fiddle; Sigrun Eng: cello; Amund Sjølie Sveen: vibraphone.

Title: Softspeaker | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Atterklang

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