Some of the best ECM discs are being conceived, played, and produced outside the prestigious Munich-based label, whose productions are trademarked by creative, well-crafted, and beautifully executed chamber jazz.
Norwegian pianist and composer Ketil Bjørnstad, who has recorded five discs for ECM in the last decade, uses veteran ECM recording musicians; ECM's chief sound engineer, Jan Erik Kongshaug; and ECM's main recording studio, the Rainbow studio of Oslo, to a very satisfying result on this moving tribute to a fellow countryman, poet Kolbein Falkeid.
Falkeid, 71, who has published twenty collections of poetry since 1962, is a keen traveler who has journeyed throughout India, West Africa, and South America. He has a great respect for Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and he believes that poetry can reach a wider audience if it's accompanied by music. Kolbein has collaborated with other Norwegian musicians, most noteworthy among them the neo-folk band Vamp. Many of his poems are about longing, often symbolized by the ocean, almost in the same manner as Bjørnstad, who has also published collections of poetry and essaysincluding a book on the life of tormented Norwegian painter Edvard Munchreferred to the sea in the titles of his previous releases.
For Solskinnsdypet ("Sun Shines Deep" in Norwegian), Falkeid reads twelve poems in his deep voice, accompanied by trumpeter Arve Henriksen (Trygve Seim, Christian Wallumrød, Jon Balke), bassist Bjørn Kjellemyr (Terje Rypdal), drummer Run Arnesen (Nils Petter Molvær), and Bjørnstad on the grand piano.
Unfortunately none of the Falkeid poems featured on this disc are translated into English, and translations of his poems are quite scarce in general, but you can still grasp their sensuality and enjoy these loving musical interpretations. Henriksen really shines throughout this recording, often as the main soloist, and his earthy, whispery trumpet playing is a perfect companion to Falkeid's folksy, down-to-earth tone, as well as Bjørnstad's minimalist outlines of the melodies. Kjellemyr and Arnesen provide very solid support for Henriksen's flights and Bjørnstad's neo-classical themes. Some of the poems are converted into gentle, dance-like melodies, as on "Kjengjerninger," and some capture the drama of Falkeid's reading, as on "Testamente."
This recording is warmly recommended, though a translation of these poems would be more than welcome. Solskinnsdypet also features a most striking cover by Norwegian abstract nature painter Kjell Pahr-Iversens.