“The immense sonic resources of these players seem to keep on growing” noted The Guardian of their last release, “Fabula Suite Lugano”, and the ensemble of Christian Wallumrød continues to evolve in its own idiosyncratic way on “Outstairs”. By now, Wallumrød’s compositional signature is instantly recognizable. Nobody else writes pieces like this – multi-dimensional chamber music inspired by the sonorities of Norwegian folk and church music, influenced by early music and the post-Cage avant-garde, and liberated by jazz’s freedom of thought. This time around, the ensemble members share the arranging credits between them, making the music still more organic and flexible. New sound combinations emerge, but the genre, the idiom, remains uniquely Wallumrød’s.
Like “Fabula Suite Lugano”, “Outstairs” was produced by Manfred Eicher and recorded at the Auditorio RSI in Lugano, Switzerland. The studio’s naturally clear acoustic sound also contributes to the musical outcome: in Wallumrød’s music, often built of small gestures rather than dramatic flourishes, acute listening is of paramount importance.
There are some changes in the line-up: Espen Reinertsen comes in on tenor saxophone, and Tove Törngren is the band’s new cellist. Reinertsen and CWE trumpeter Eivind Lønning have much experience together, playing free improvised music in the duo Streifenjunko and in the quintet Koboku Senju, as well as earlier collaborations with Sidsel Endresen and Keith Rowe. Their shared feeling for timbre, texture and extended instrumental technique is well-utilized by Wallumrød – as is the resourcefulness of Swedish cellist Tove Törngren, who works regularly in contexts from chamber music to pop to improvisation.
Gjermund Larsen, who joined the ensemble in time for the first sextet recording “The Zoo Is Far”, has a sound informed by a profound knowledge of Norwegian folk music. The yearning tone of his Hardanger fiddle has become one of the characteristic sounds of the Wallumrød group.
Christian Wallumrød and Per Oddvar Johansen have been collaborating for more than twenty years in diverse projects, and the drummer (who has also recorded for ECM with Trygve Seim’s ensembles) has a highly-developed sense for shading and detailing the inner architecture of Wallumrød’s compositions.
Wallumrød made his ECM debut with the trio album “No Birch”, recorded in 1996. “Sofienberg Variations” (recorded 2001) introduced the first version of the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble – with Nils Økland, Arve Henriksen and Per Oddvar Johansen – “A Year From Easter” (2004) followed. The sextet version of the Ensemble was launched with ”The Zoo Is Far” (recorded 2006). In 2008 the trumpeter Eivind Lønning replaced Arve Henriksen in the sextet version of CWE, and the ensemble recorded and released the album ”Fabula Suite Lugano” in 2009. It was nominated for the Nordic Music Prize 2010. Since 2002, the Wallumrød Ensemble has toured widely and in June 2013 played a number of concerts in the US.
In his performing life, Wallumrød juxtaposes the meticulously composed music of the Ensemble with totally free group improvising in the group Dans Les Arbres with Ingar Zach, Ivar Grydeland and Xavier Charles. The DLA group also has albums issued by ECM: “Dans les Arbres” (recorded 2006) and “Canopée” (2010-11).
In May 2013, Christian Wallumrød premiered a commissioned orchestral work, “When celebrities dream of casual sleep (second try)” at the Angelica International Festival in Italy. It was performed by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna.
Press reactions to “Fabula Suite Lugano”:
“Wallumrød’s creations have never sounded more bewitching and elusive. Between the wonderfully peculiar instrumentation of this sextet – which reflects those three discreet musical worlds… and malleable arrangements that brilliantly use deeply varied timbral combinations, the luminescent sound of the group is practically enough to dazzle the ears for hours.”
Peter Margasak, DownBeat
“This second album by the Norwegian pianist’s sextet not only features those signature expanses of soft percussion, Hardanger-fiddle sighs and baroque harp sounds, but also plenty of eager activity – beginning with the flurry of spooky fiddle and piano trills that kicks things off. “
John Fordham, The Guardian
“Sounding like a jazz ensemble improvising on Messiaen’s Quartet For The End Of Time, it’s no place for a newcomer, but those fascinated by where jazz and modern classical are taking music should take a journey into this deep, dark forest.”
Andrew Male, Mojo
“Auf einen gemeinsamen Nenner lässt sich die Musik des Christian Wallumrød Ensembles nicht bringen. Gerade dies macht die Aufnahme aus Lugano zu einer der originellsten Neuerscheinungen der letzten Zeit”.
Thomas Rothschild, Titel-Magazin
“Allein die Besetzung ist unverwechselbar: Piano/Harmonium, Trompete, Violine/Bratsche, Cello, Barockharfe und Schlagzeug. Nichts hat Eile, vielmehr ist es, als würde eine große weiße Leinwand bedächtig Strich für Strich gefüllt mit Farben und Nuancen, die sich erst im Fortgang der Ereignisse zu einem wie von innen leuchtenden Bild ergänzen. Wallumrød erweitert seine zeitgenössische Herangehensweise um Elemente schwedischer Folklore, die er in choralartigen Hymnen von berückender Schönheit hinbreitet, integriert Barockmusik, Fernost und Scarlatti. Ungewöhnlich, schön.”
Ulrich Steinmetzger, Saarbrücker Zeitung