"Xieyi" is a Chinese term of compound meaning. Literally "to write life's sense", it's also the name of a traditional style of ink painting distinguished by free brushstrokes. Anders Jormin, for whom musical "freedom" also signifies the freedom to sing a simple song, returns in this recording for bass and brass to melodies that have brought meaning to his own life.
As he says, "There are songs that touch and deeply affect the heart. Songs that move you, awake memories and come back to you time and again. Songs whose lyrics and profound musical vitality carry thoughts and emotions so close to your own hitherto unspoken credo. On this album I've tried, in my own way, to sing with my instrument some of these songs so significant for me, and for many others as well."
"Xieyi" is Anders Jormin's first album as a leader for ECM, but the Swedish bassist (born in Jönköping in 1957) has been a powerful presence on recordings for the label over the last decade, including Charles Lloyd's "Notes from Big Sur", "The Call", "All My Relations", and "Canto", Don Cherry's "Dona Nostra", Bobo Stenson's "Reflections", "War Orphans", and "Serenity", and Tomasz Stanko's "Matka Joanna", "Leosia", and "From The Green Hill". Other leading musicians with whom Jormin has played include Marilyn Crispell, Elvin Jones, Joe Henderson, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano, and Kenny Wheeler. The range of his knowledge and ability prompted Down Beat to hail him recently as "a treasure - everything a bassist should be."
Conceived originally as a bass solo album, the project was expanded, at the suggestion of Manfred Eicher, to include short pieces for brass quartet. Slotted alternately in between the solo bass performances, the compositions for brass instruments extend the atmosphere of the bass pieces and provide textural contrast. "In the interests of consistency of sound and atmosphere, as well as a natural and organic form for the interpretations and improvisations, the bass pieces were all recorded on the same occasion, a rainy evening - 17th December 1999 - in the church-like Organ Hall at the School of music and musicology in Göteborg, Sweden." The brass miniatures were written with "the same goal of simplicity and arioso feeling."
Jormin has been performing solo bass recitals, to great acclaim, for many years and is comfortable with this demanding format. He is able to draw on the full range of his experience which, in addition to the jazz tradition and free improvisation, includes classical studies and research into "ethnic" musics, research which has incorporated extended visits to Cuba and Mozambique.
While all the pieces for brass quartet are written by Jormin, the songs for bass derive from the widest possible sources: Scandinavian religious hymns by Sibelius and Söderblom, a wonderful account of Ornette Coleman's "War Orphans" previously the title track of an album by the Stenson-Jormin-Christensen trio (ECM 1604), "Gracias a la vida" by Violetta Parra, the Chilean woman who revolutionized Latin-American music, tone poems by Swedish composers, a children's song, and improvisations by Anders.
The blend and juxtaposition of song, improvisation and composition is one that Jormin has explored with the Bobo Stenson Trio, and in drawing upon jazz, 20th century art music, folk and "world" music sources the bassist has shaped an album that is both a powerful statement in its own right and a natural companion volume to the trio's "Serenity" album; it shares similar artistic concerns.
Anders Jormin tours Europe with the Bobo Stenson Trio in November. Presentation concerts to mark the release of "Xieyi" are planned in Gothenborg, Sweden, and at the Swedish Embassy in London.