Commissioned to write new sacred music to be premiered in the cathedral of Västerås in Sweden, Anders Jormin rose to the challenge with a song cycle inspired by poetic texts that might be described as “pantheistic”. The words he has chosen, by great Swedish poets Harry Edmund Martinson, Pär Lagerkvist, Johannes Edfelt and Lotta Olsson-Anderberg, as well as by the English visionary William Blake, celebrate manifestations of “divine” energy in the universe and in nature. “Far out on flaming horizons / quivers an eye, a nucleus/ moving in pity – the distant / star of love, magic, eternal. / Every time it looks at the earth / a meadow springs up, and blossoms”, writes Martinson. To bring such vivid words and images alive, Jormin needed a special band, and formed one from his wide network of musical associates.
With his previous recordings on ECM – four albums with Charles Lloyd, three each with Bobo Stenson and Tomasz Stanko, as well as Jon Balke’s “Kyanos”, Don Cherry’s “Dona Nostra” and his own album of solos and music for brass ensemble, “Xieyi” - Jormin has established himself as a most resourceful jazz player, whose choice of notes and heartfelt delivery have long marked him out as one of the most compelling bassists in the music. Outside the label, however, he has worked an even broader range of contexts, from folk to contemporary chamber music via free improvisation. “In winds, in light” touches on these bases.
Lena Willemark has previously appeared on ECM as the voice of two exemplary Swedish “folk” bands, the Nordan project, which looks at the wider world of music through the lens of the Swedish folk revival, and the more traditionally oriented Frifot. Willemark grew up in the mountain-forest village of Evertsberg in mid-West Sweden where traditional folk culture still thrives and she learned to play and sing with the help of local musicians. At 18, she moved to Stockholm where, inspired initially by recordings of Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek and Miles Davis, she began to seek out collaborations with jazz musicians. This has been one side of her work ever since, alongside her folk projects. A majority of the song texts on “In winds, in light” are in Swedish, but Willemark is challenged also to sing in English, for the first time in her ECM discography. She sings the bracing words of William Blake on the subject of moral choice on “Each man” and Anders Jormin’s own English lyrics on “Choral”, “In Winds”, and “Love Song”. On “Sång 80” she moves from Martin’s luminous nature poetry into intensely expressive free vocalizing.
Marilyn Crispell, Anders Jormin and Raymond Strid have worked together, irregularly, for more than a decade now – they first recorded as a trio in 1994 - and refined their group understanding; their trio is at the heart of the “In winds, in light” project.
Crispell, the Woodstock-based pianist, is of course an ECM bandleader in her own right and the “new” lyrical direction observed in her recordings “Nothing ever was, anyway”, “Amaryllis” and “Storyteller” was to some extent implicit in her early work with Jormin, where she was already moving away from Cecil Taylor inspired energies towards a more considered use of space and silence in the music, although how much this has had to do with exposure to “Nordic” sensibilities would be difficult to assess. Besides, drummer Raymond Strid hardly fits the Noprdic archetype. For many years a member of the voluble free trio Gush (with Mats Gustaffson and Sten Sandell), Strid is a player who carves space into the music with a multiplicity of sounds. His unorthodox “extended technique” on percussion gained him, furthermore, a place in Barry Guy’s New Orchestra, of which Crispell is also a member.
Karin Nelson is a specialist in baroque improvisation and the classical organ tradition generally, increasingly cited as one of the most insightful organists in Europe. Her recordings of Scheidemann have in particular been widely praised. But, as undogmatic as all her colleagues here, her interests extend to improvisation in contemporary contexts as she also performs in a “free” duo with saxophonist flutist Biggi Vinkeloe. One of the pleasures if “In winds, in light” is the subtlety with which Nelson and Crispell interact, making sense of the unorthodox combination of church organ and piano.
On the way to the recording, which was made in the large and resonant Organ Hall of the Gothenburg Music Academy, the quintet toured Swedish churches, allowing the spaces themselves as well as the interplay between the musicians to influence the form of this song cycle.
Anders Jormin was born in 1957 in Jönköping, Sweden, and studied at the Gothenburg Music Academy where he has continued to work as Professor of Improvisation and Double-bass when not on the road with diverse projects. He holds a professorship also at the Sibelius Music Academy which has awarded him an honorary doctorate and is, thus far, the only contemporary improviser to be granted membership of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music.
He has played with many of the key figures in jazz and improvisation including, in addition to names already instanced, Lee Konitz, Elvin Jones, Joe Henderson, Joe Lovano, John Surman, Jack DeJohnette, Dino Saluzzi, Paul Motian, Albert Mangelsdorff, Gilberto Gil and dozens more. Anders has appeared on more than 70 albums, and as a writer of music has received numerous commissions - from institutions as diverse as the International Society for Contemporary Music, Swedish Radio, the Gothenburg Jazz Festival, and the Norwegian royal family.
Release of the “In winds, in light” CD is celebrated with a church tour by the ensemble through Scandinavia. Consult the web site at www.ecmrecords.com for details.
Activities for Jormin in Autumn 2004 include tours with Bob Stenson (a new Stenson trio recording is scheduled for 2005 release) and the premiere of as commissioned bass concerto by the Sundsvall Chamber Orchestra with Anders himself as soloist.