The music that makes up this most delightful and peculiar album is both paradoxical and enigmatic. Everything seems to fit together and make sense, and yet the musical world thus created is unfamiliar. While it has density and gravity, the music feels like it's almost not there. After experiencing the album, you might ask yourself what just happened. What is it about this music that kept my total attention and yet slipped right through my fingers? The Source
is the second release by this group, after The Source and Different Cikadas
(ECM, 2000) by the core trio of Trygve Seim (tenor and soprano saxophone), Oyvind Braekke (trombone) and Per Oddvar Johansen (drums); Mats Eilertsen (bass) joined just before this recording was made. The original trio members met in school back in 1993, embracing eclecticism from the beginning.
The fact that there is no chordal instrument in the group at least partially explains the music's lightness and fragility: it dances and actually swings, but in the most unorthodox way. However, there is more to the story. Braekke and Seim are ideal partners who share an uncanny ability to play lick-free lines that have forward motion and logic, but seem to be ready to go in any direction at any time. Their well-honed rhythmic sense implies a pulse without ever quite being so crude as to actually land on it.
Braekke's tone on trombone is extremely clear and bell-like, and his technique is so assured that it's sometimes easy to forget what instrument he's playing. Seim has cultivated a dry, slightly reedy tone, so that when they play together or against each other, they produce a distinctive new sound. Just as important are the contributions by Johansen and Eilertsen, who manage to maintain a delicate balance between supporting and leading.
The album roughly falls into two halves, the second made up entirely of Braekke compositions. The disc starts with the humorous "Caballero" and "Un Fingo Andalou," before slowly getting increasingly diaphanous through the free ballad of Edward Vesala's "Libanera" and the beautiful, memorable melody of "Prelude To A Boy." Johansen's "Tamboura Rasa" and "Mmball" seem to be made of nothing at allthey're at the center of a web that binds us, but we cannot see.
"Oesterled," which begins a set of seven tunes by Braekke, is the fulcrum between the densely ethereal and the translucently concrete. "Life So Far" and "Tribute" actually have a cool groove, but Seim and Braekke always play against, rather than into it. After so much serious humor, "Surrender Triptych," with its stately theme, closes the loop on the band's connection to Vesala.
In a year that thus far has brought many high points from ECM, The Source
is yet another seductive release.
Visit Trygve Seim
, Mats Eilertsen
and Per Oddvar Johansen
on the web.