Pianist Christian Wallumrød expands his quartet to a sextet forThe Zoo is Far. Alongside returning trumpeter Arve Henriksen and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen, Wallumrød introduces three string playersviolinist Gjermund Larsen (who replaces Nils Økland), cellist Tanja Orning and Baroque harpist Giovanna Pessi. This unique cast of highly-gifted performers makes music that at the same time seems to be both floating and free and intensely melodic.
The album's twenty-four pieces find unusual sources of inspiration including the Fantasias of classical composer Henry Purcell, as well as Baroque music, the Norwegian psalm tradition and Pakistani music.
With a few exceptions the compositions are brief, and most of the time this ensemble plays with a sense of continuous collaboration. The ascetic aspects of the ECM sound fit the music immaculately. The mood is somber and methodical and the use of space and absence of strict form play dominant roles.
Wallumrød's knack, evident on previous outings, remains for combining asymmetric compositional frameworks with group-centric interplay. Sometimes the musicians seem to be engaged in conversation without being sure of the direction where the conversation is heading.
But this is more than a voluminous sketchbook of sounds, moods and forms. The music on The Zoo Is Far impresses with its quality and, paradoxically, its reluctance to impress. The whole is very much more than the sum of its parts.
Nash Lontano; Backwards Henry II; Parkins Cembalo; Fragment no. 6; Psalm Kv