(Rune Grammofon RCD2161/RLP3161)
Any regular follower of this blog will know that I am a huge fan of the music of Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen. After hearing him in a wide range of situations, from the free music of Supersilent to his trumpet/voice/laptop duo with sound manipulator Jan Bang, and everything in between, including collaborations with Tunisian oud player Dhafer Youssef and with early music singers Trio Medieval, I am not necessarily saying that Arve can do no wrong – I have just not yet heard him make a wrong move or play a note that hasn’t moved me.
This latest from a musician who is particularly generous both in live performance and in recordings is a collaboration with strings and drums. Henriksen had, apparently, planned to make an album with a string quartet for many years but not found the right formula. Then a specially commissioned tour placed him with violinists Nils Økland and Gjermund Larsen (both, crucially, play the earthier sounding Hardanger fiddle in addition to regular violin), cellist Svante Henryson and double bassist Mats Eilertsen. So, a string quartet but with a lower centre of wave frequency. To this quintet Arve has added, very sparingly, the drummer Audun Kleive.
The title of the album comes from a book about furniture making. Arve liked the idea of artists/craftsmen from different fields coming together to undertake a long process, with the end product a beautiful artefact. I suppose another vital angle is that it could not have been created by any of them alone. In that spirit, despite the album being in Arve’s name, only one of the nine tracks is by him, and even that one gets an “arranged by all” qualification. All the others are by the rest of the group, individually or together, with one contributed by Arve’s Supersilent fellow Ståle Størlokken.
The timbral mix of strings, percussion and Henriksen’s near-vocal trumpet is simply magical – or should that be complexly magical? And the range of the music, more folk and classical in its stylistic allegiance than it is to jazz, is wide. At times – Henryson’s Keen – it is gently funky with an almost electric rock violin sound. At others – Okland’s Budbringeren and Henryson’s Seclusive Song – trumpet and violins blend into what sounds one minute like a horn section and the next a string ensemble, both seemingly from the oak-lined room of an ancient castle.
In Larsen’s Hambopolskavalsen the band sinks effortlessly into a lilting folk instrumental than could sit easily in amongst the Transatlantic Sessions or Celtic Connections programmes. And Størlokken’s Hymn is an easily accessible gem. Over the expanse of the album Eilertson’s use of both bowed and plucked bass easily shifts the music back and forth across the division between folk and classical – his solo on Hymn is particular fine. Henriksen’s playing, of course, is sublime.
It’s beautifully recorded and engineered by Jan Erik Kongshaug at Rainbow Studios in Oslo.
There is a gentle thoughtfulness about the music and a dark tinge of melancholy to some of it. I can’t think of a more perfect soundtrack for the coming autumnal days.
- Arve Henriksen is participating in an architectural installation/performance as part of the Ultima Festival in Oslo between 10 and 20 September. More about Ultima here.
- To buy Arve Henriksen’s The Nature Of Connections go here.
Categories: CD review