Much has been written about the Scandinavian jazz scene's distinctive nature. Since the region is geographically removed from mainstream Europe, the evolution of a jazz aesthetic rooted in its own tradition has resulted in its own distinctive complexion. And while people outside the region look to larger labels like ECM for a window into that world, a plethora of smaller independent labels support a far wider range of talent. In Sweden alone, labels including Caprice, Dragon, and Amigo document a community that's surprisingly large compared to its small population.
Footprint Records is another label with a small but consistent jazz roster. And with the accessibility of the internet, fine records like Christian Jormin 3's Sol Salutis are finally available to international audiences who want a deeper look into the Scandinavian scene than ECM can provide.
Jorminwhose brother, bassist Anders, is well-known to ECM fans for his work with Charles Lloyd, Bobo Stenson, and Tomasz Stankohas always played the piano, but has traditionally focused more on percussion. But like drummers Jack DeJohnette and Gary Husband, the piano is far from a secondary instrument for him, and he's not only a facile player, but an imaginative writer as well. Sol Salutis emphasizes Jormin the pianist and the writer. He composed six of the ten tracks; the rest are traditional pieces arranged by Jormin. While the trio has existed for nearly fifteen years, the current lineup with double-bassist Mattias Grönroos and drummer Magnus Boqvist is more recent.
In some ways Jormin's trio resembles a purer version of the more popular Swedish trio EST. But whereas pianist Esbjörn Svensson and his group are imbued with a strong pop sensibility, Jormin's undeniable lyricism is at times more abstract and impressionistic. Still, there's a cleanliness of line, a spacious economy, and a singsong nature to Jormin's compositions, including the gentle but expansive "Den Sista Världen, that feel somehow related. Equally, Jormin doesn't view his group as a piano trio, rather a democratic collective where, as is the case with the elegant "Dream City, the melody is just as likely to be fronted by Grönroos as Jormin.
"Vändkors opens with an ambient, Harold Budd-like piano solo, but evolves into clearer form, with Boqvist suggesting the pulse more directly than Jon Christensen, but with similar elasticity. The trio's adaptation of traditional material ranges from the coolly abstruse tone poem "Det Finns en Väg to the more potent "Pärlor Sköna, where Jormin duets with Boqvist on percussion before returning to piano for its more hymnal body.
Were it released on a label with greater international presence, Sol Salutis would no doubt receive the kind of attention paid to artists like Tord Gustavsen, Marcin Wasilewski, and Esbjorn Svensson. Now, with the internet, there's no reason not to check it out. It may not have the same degree of exposure, but with a similarly deep yet approachable sound, Christian Jormin's trio clearly possesses the same kind of appeal.