268

Christian Wallumrod: The Zoo Is Far

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
With The Zoo Is Far, pianist/composer Christian Wallumrød increases his compositional control of the musical forces, now a sextet, at his disposal. This is music of the interior mind, which has an intensity fused to a melancholic beauty. It is mesmerizing, while existing at the boundary of composition and jazz.

The quartet that appeared on A Year From Easter (ECM,2005)—Wallmurød, Arve Henriksen (trumpet), Per Oddvar Johansen (drums, percussion), Nils Økland (violin, Hardanger fiddle, viola)—has been augmented with Giovanna Pessi (Baroque harp), and Tanja Orning (cello) with Gjermund Larsen replacing Økland on violin.

The additional instruments allow Wallmurød's carefully crafted compositions more sonic possibilities. Besides the common player in Henriksen, The Zoo Is Far shares much of the aesthetic of Frode Haltli's Passing Images (ECM, 2007). Both works use a blending of the instrumentation to achieve an overall sound that represents the group as imagined through the composer's respective compositions. However, the two recordings explore differing spaces, with Haltli giving a larger amount of improvisational room to the performers.

The record is made up twenty-four tracks, most of which are under three minutes. A few distinct compositional groups make up seventeen of the twenty-four tracks and provide a thread for the ear. In discussing the degree of improvisation in this music, Wallumrød states that drummer Johansen is almost entirely left to his imagination, but that in general only parts of some pieces are improvised. Indeed, he says, "Whenever something comes up that reminds me of jazz, especially sound-wise, I try to avoid it."

Thus, The Zoo Is Faris a compositional exploration of a sonic space that is in general dark and in the lower range. The instruments are used for their ability to blend: the Baroque harp blends with the piano (at least as played by Wallumrød), the cello blends with the higher stringed instruments, Henriksen's trumpet blends with everything (which is his trademark) and Johansen's percussion is carefully calibrated not to overwhelm.

The three "Backwards Henry" tracks, which are based on reversed phrases from classical composer Henry Purcell Fantazias (circa 1680) are the clearest examples of separation of instrumental voices and share with the four "Psalm Kvæn" tracks a distinct early classical quality. The five "Fragments" feel related by their main chord and could easily be modern classical compositions. The "Detach" tracks (A, B, C) are easily grouped by their base chord, performances, and contain obvious improvised "solos." Both "Arch Dance" (the longest track by far) and "Arch Dance With Trumpet" have distinct improvisation parts within a minimalist context.

As sound, The Zoo Is Far is fascinating and the compositional prowess impressive. As music it can be enjoyed on many levels and the question of where in the spectrum it is to be placed is quite moot.

Track Listing: Nash Lontano; Backwards Henry II; Parkins Cembalo; Fragment no. 6; Psalm Kv

Personnel: Christian Wallumr

Title: The Zoo Is Far | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: ECM Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read ON Tour CD/LP/Track Review ON Tour
by John Kelman
Published: October 22, 2017
Read On a Distant Shore CD/LP/Track Review On a Distant Shore
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets CD/LP/Track Review Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Signal 9 CD/LP/Track Review Signal 9
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 22, 2017
Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Bekkenjordet" CD/LP/Track Review Bekkenjordet
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 15, 2017
Read "Terry Riley In C" CD/LP/Track Review Terry Riley In C
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 8, 2017
Read "WAHOO!" CD/LP/Track Review WAHOO!
by Greg Simmons
Published: February 13, 2017
Read "Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 17, 2017
Read "Tipico" CD/LP/Track Review Tipico
by James Nadal
Published: January 12, 2017
Read "Still Motion" CD/LP/Track Review Still Motion
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 7, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.