Trygve Seim and Frode Haltli Blend Eurojazz with World Sounds

Trygve Seim and Frode Haltli  -  Yeraz (ECM, 2008)
Trygve Seim and Frode Haltli – Yeraz (ECM, 2008)
The cover of Yeraz (ECM, 2008), by saxophonist Trygve Seim and accordionist Frode Haltli. shows an open road stretching towards the horizon, and this is music in movement; Its sources include Armenian traditional music (the title track), music of G.I. Gurdjieff (the Greek-Armenian philosopher-mystic who collected traditional material on travels around the Caucasus and the Middle-East), Caribbean Wailers’ reggae (a rubato version of Bob Marley’s "Redemption Song"), a free waltz with a nod to U.S. singer-songwriter Tom Waits ("Waits for Waltz"), improvisations…. Some favorite pieces are revisited: "MmBall" (by Seim’s drummer Per Oddvar Johansen), Seim’s "Bhavana" and "Airamero" (the latter from the repertoire of Trygve’s old band of the early 1990s, itself strongly ECM-influenced) and more – all tunes newly arranged by Seim and Haltli.

Key figures in the new Norwegian music, Trygve Seim and Frode Haltli have played together in many contexts. The accordionist joined Seim’s large ensemble for live performances after the release of Different Rivers in 2000, and participated in the recording of The Source and Different Cikadas later that year, as well as Sangam (recorded 2002-2004). He continues to tour regularly with Seim’s large ensemble. Trygve and Frode have been playing in duo since 2001: Yeraz is the first documentation of their work in this format.

The two musicians share an interest in the expressive potential of acoustic music across all stylistic boundaries, from world folk traditions to contemporary composition. Accordionist Frode Haltli came to contemporary music early, but simultaneously began playing folk music in his local village community, and at 13 was the youngest member of a traditional dance band. Folk has remained a thread in a musical life that embraces improvisation as well as performance of composed music with a special focus on modern composers. His prize winning debut album Looking On Darkness (ECM New Series, 2002) including the title piece written by Bent Sørensen, was a powerful summing up of new directions in Nordic composition. Passing Images  (recorded 2004) made connections between folk and improvisation and pooled a team of maverick talents including classical violist Garth Knox, jazz trumpeter Arve Henriksen and singer/composer Maja Ratkje.

The span of references is maintained in Haltli’s other activities, which include the trio Poing with Rolf Erik Nystrøm (saxophone) and Håkon Thelin (bass), playing primarily contemporary music, and the folk trio Rusk with singer Unni Løvlid and fiddler Vegar Vårdal.

Inspired early in his creative life by Jan Garbarek and by Edward Vesala, Trygve Seim has worked in many modern jazz contexts, and continues to tour with Manu Katché’s group. In his own music, however, distance from conventional definitions of jazz becomes ever more marked. Investigation of Asian, Middle Eastern and East European music – and especially the sounds of the Armenian duduk, the Japanese shakuhachi, and the Indian bansuri flute – have had their impact on Seim’s music and brought about a redefining of the nature of dynamics. Subtle shadings and textures are part of his palette, and microtonal phrasing characteristic of his melodic approach.

In additional to his discography as a leader and as a member of The Source, Trygve Seim appears on ECM recordings by Iro Haarla (Northbound), Sinikka Langeland (Starflowers), Christian Wallumrød (Sofienberg Variations), and Manu Katché (Playground). Other recent activities have included extended stays in Cairo, where Seim studied Arabian modes and played concerts with pianist Fathy Salama.

Both musicians are prize-winning artists. Seim’s ECM debut Different Rivers won the annual prize of the German Record Critics (Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik 2001). Similarly, Haltli’s ECM debut Looking On Darkness won the French Prix Gus Viseur in 2004 as well as the Norwegian Spellemannprisen for Best Contemporary Music Album.

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