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Anders Jormin: Xieyi

John Kelman By

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Recorded at the turn of the century and released in Europe in 2001, Swedish bassist Anders Jormin's first release as a leader on ECM is only now being issued in North America. It's easy to suspect that the reason for the delay is to trade in on the greater cachet of pianist Bobo Stenson, with whom Jormin has worked for twenty years and who has his own new release, the sublime Goodbye. But the truth is that the release of Xieyi really rights an unfortunate wrong.

Jormin has a reputation in Europe as an influential bassist whose sheer musicality is never lost amidst his vast and highly innovative technical ability. But that has never translated into a similar reach in North America, and solo bass albums rarely make a significant dent in the awareness of the greater listening public. However, Xieyi is a bass album with a difference—a couple of differences, in fact.

This disc was recorded ten years after his first solo bass record, Alone, originally released on the Swedish Dragon label. Jormin's intention was simple: "...to see what I could do with my supposedly-clumsy instrument; how melodic, how easy, how musical can I be on the bass?" And while the program—a blend of Jormin compositions and improvisations alongside pieces by artists including Swedish pianist Stefan Forssén, Ornette Coleman, Chilean composer Violeta Parra, and classical composer Jean Sibelius—is both stylistically mixed and wide-ranging in complexity, Jormin distinguishes himself by truly making his instrument sing. Jormin succeeds in making his intensely lyrical solo bass playing a surprisingly approachable and accessible entity.

The album is also differentiated from other solo bass recordings by the inclusion of a series of composed pieces for four-piece brass ensemble, a suggestion by producer Manfred Eicher that Jormin at first resisted, but ultimately agreed to. The six miniatures create gentle textural contrast, giving the album a broader complexion and at the same time, almost paradoxically, a greater focus. They give Xieyi a firmer narrative, its seventy minutes feeling more like a structured recital than a series of disconnected pieces.

At the heart of Xieyi is Jormin's expansion of the bass' sonic possibilities—influenced as much by other instruments including classical guitar and the late electric bassist Jaco Pastorius as both the classical and jazz bass traditions. While bassists will undoubtedly marvel at Jormin's expansive technique and wonder how he achieves certain effects, most listeners will simply be captivated by just how melodic and self-contained his instrument can be.

Jormin has built his reputation as an intuitive and supportive player in the jazz-centric environs of groups led by Stenson, saxophonist Charles Lloyd, and trumpeter Tomasz Stanko. However, his own body of work—including last year's spiritual song cycle In Winds, In Light—has been more about consolidating diverse influences into something that defies easy categorization, while remaining focused in its evocative nature. Xieyi transcends its own seemingly inherent limitations to become a vivid musical statement that deserves to give Jormin the North American visibility he so richly deserves.

Track Listing: Choral; Giv mig ej Glans; I Denna Ijuva Sommartid; Gracias a la Vida; Idas Sommervisa; Xieyi; Decimas; Och Kanske

Personnel: Anders Jormin: double-bass; Brass Quartet (1,6,9,12,15,17): Robin Rydqvist: trumpet, flugelhorn; Krister Petersson: French horn; Lars-G

Title: Xieyi | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: ECM Records

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