A new name for ECM's ever-expanding roster of Scandinavian talent. "Different Rivers" is Norwegian saxophonist Trygve Seim's first album under his own name.
Some biographical information: Trygve Seim was born in Oslo in 1971, and took up the saxophone at the age of 14. His earliest inspirations were, he says, Jan Garbarek, electric Miles Davis, and ECM's documentation of European improvising. Seim studied jazz at the Trondheim Conservatory. During those studies he met pianist Christian Wallumrød, co-producer of the present disc and an ECM artist in his own right (see "No Birch" ECM 1628) and together they formed the group Airamero, which made Scandinavian tours with Kenny Wheeler and played in Germany with Nils Petter Molvær. In 1992, Seim, now based back in Oslo, joined the "little big band" Oslo 13 and appears on its 1993 album "Live"; when leader Jon Balke left the group in 1995, Seim and fellow saxophonist Morten Halle became the ensemble's principal composers.
In 1993, Seim co-founded the quartet The Source, a group originally rooted in the free jazz tradition but which has since developed a personal style of its own. The Source has played several concerts in which they are joined by the Cikada String Quartet (the classical ensemble that has appeared on ECM recordings by Bent Sørensen, Annette Peacock, Arild Andersen and Mats Edén). A Source/Cikada album will be issued by ECM in 2001. 1993 was also the year in which Seim launched the Trondheim Kunstorkester, a large ensemble containing many of the players now featured on "Different Rivers". "We started as a free music orchestra. I would just write small themes and then we would improvise: all of us were in the free music area at the time. In recent years, structure has become more im-portant to me, and some of the pieces we play now are totally composed."
In 1995, Trygve Seim played with the great Finnish drummer Edward Vesala ("Edward was very important for my musical development"), and they talked about forming a trio with Iro Haarla on harp and piano. In 1999 the project-in-progress was expanded to quartet-size with the addition of Anders Jormin on bass, and rehearsals began in earnest. The group played compositions by Seim with a melodic, freely expressive approach, as well as material by Haarla and Jormin, and radical re-workings of "standards" (if the term applies) by Legrand and Händel. A debut concert at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in July 1999, showed a group full of promise which was never to be fulfilled. Edward Vesala's sudden death, in November of that year, closed this chapter.
Seim's writing for his own orchestra occasionally reveals a centred, focussed, still quality that has affinities with Sound & Fury's ballad book, and "Different Rivers" includes a heartfelt tribute to Vesala; "For Edward". Henriksen is one of several musicians on the present recording who is likely to be familiar to followers of music on and around ECM. The trumpeter is a member of both the Christian Wallumrød Trio and Supersilent, the Rune Grammofon group currently making waves. He has also recorded with Jon Balke's Magnetic North Orchestra, Audun Kleive and Anders Jormin, amongst many other credits.
Hild Sofie Tafjord is a member of the experimental free improvising group Spunk, whose album "Det eneste jeg vet er at det ikke er en støvsuger" was issued earlier this year by Rune/ECM. Morten Hannisdal, who plays on "Different Rivers", is the cellist with the Cikada Quartet. And Sidsel Endresen, who recites "Breathe", was recently heard on Nils Petter Molvær's "Solid Ether", and has two ECM albums of her own, "So I Write" and "Exile". Øyvind Brække and Per Oddvar Johansen are both in The Source, alongside Trygve Seim. Stian Carstensen plays in the multi-idiom band Farmers Market, which also features Supersilent drummer Jarle Vespestad. Farmers Market was founded by Håvard Lund, another friend of Trygve's from conservatory days. Trained as classical clarinettist, Lund now works across the idioms from pop to theatre music to free improvising, and holds down a job as Musical Advisor at Oslo's Torshov Theatre. These are some of the inter-connections. Of the other players, Paal Nilssen-Love is known in free music circles for his work with saxophonist Frode Gjerstad. Bernt Simen Lund is a cellist with the Tromsø Symphony Orchestra, but also moonlights with rock bands. David Gald plays tuba in more straightahead jazz band contexts. Nils Jansen plays the whole range of saxophones and clarinets, and frequently works in thea-tre music settings. In brief, the entire crew reveals a penchant for multi-genre music-making.
Particularly from the bare-boned duets with Arve Henriksen - "Bhavana", "For Edward", "Between" - one can hear that Trygve Seim is listening beyond "jazz" - the bent and flat-tened notes, the microtones, the phrasing, all point to an interest in music of the East. "My main musical interest as a listener, has for a couple of years been dominated by traditional music from the east". Seim confirms. "Especially the different traditions of wind instruments and vocalists. In fact this winter I plan to make a journey to the east to find out more about this music and the culture around it. I'm also interested in con-temporary composition, and Görecki, Bjørklund and Pärt are important to me."
The piece "Breathe", written around a text by Annabel Laity has a special significance for Seim. "To me 'Breathe' is both a metaphorical and concrete keyword in my approach to mu-sic. It gives me a sort of understanding of the abstract aspects of music, those which are inde-pendent of instrumental technique, composition technique etc. These aspects which in my opinion are the most important ones in music - which are music. 'Breath' must be present in my musical work both when playing and composing.
"All the instruments on the record are acoustic instruments and most of them are wind instruments which also depend on the musicians breathing. With such instruments (especially wind instruments) I believe that you come closer to the inner voice of the musician playing the instrument, and this makes the music alive. Listen, for instance, to the way Arve Henriksen plays trumpet - that's such a personal sound.
"A lot of the music on the record is contemplative and I want it to be a stopping off place, away from the frantic pace of our modern Western society, a place to stop and just breathe."
Seim realises his goal by diverse means including studio sleight-of-hand. The title track, for example, pulls together two performances of the same piece, with musicians doubling instru-ments in ways that would have been impossible in real-time performance. "We recorded the piece twice with two different instrumentations and then Øyvind Brække and myself cut the sections together. Jan Erik Kongshaug at Rainbow was invaluable in making this approach work. I don't know, you often see on the sleeves of jazz albums 'recorded in one day, with no overdubs' and that's valid too, but if the technology exists it's equally valid to make use of it. We're really using both elements: a lot of the composing and arranging is done in the studio, but we're also working, of course, with improvisational aspects."
The freedom and the control make "Different Rivers" an auspicious ECM debut.