Trygve Seim: Sangam (ECM 1797)

Seim Sangam

Trygve Seim

Trygve Seim tenor and soprano saxophones
Håvard Lund clarinet, bass clarinet
Nils Jansen bass saxophone, contrabass clarinet
Arve Henriksen trumpet
Tone Reichelt french horn
Lars Andreas Haug tuba
Frode Haltli accordion
Morten Hannisdal cello
Per Oddvar Johansen drums
Øyvind Brække trombone
Helge Sunde trombone
String Ensemble
Christian Eggen conductor
Recorded October 2002 and March 2004 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Jazz is typically honed through interaction and a sense of shared community. One can also find in its heart a chambered, hermetic science. Trygve Seim’s Sangam validates both conceptions in a seamless infusion of liberatory and deferential impulses. As much a nod to Gil Evans as it is folk music of an undiscovered country, it is in some ways a “jazzier” album compared to its predecessor, Different Rivers, while in others it stretches the mold of that internationally acclaimed ECM debut to a larger yet no-less-defined shape. Accordion virtuoso Frode Haltli is a new voice in Seim’s milieu, as are clarinetist Håvard Lund and Cikada Quartet cellist Morten Hannisdal—all of whom contribute organically and without pretense to this program’s meditative and often astonishing sound.

More than ever, Seim’s atmospheres carry a cinematic charge in their subcutaneous circuitry. The fade-in comes with Lund’s bird-like solo. He introduces the title track with a call to unify, thus opening the brass choir as might the sun tickle the pollen from morning glories. A close-up on the film’s protagonist comes with the sweet, flavorful swing of “Dansante,” in which Haltli’s accentuations set up a handful of dramatic reveals. The camera seems to follow every footstep from childhood to adulthood in “Beginning an Ending.” Trumpeter Arve Henriksen provides the melodic lead, etching a runway for the soul. With these flight preparations underway, we feel ourselves swept up in the potential for winged existence. Hannisdal’s bow articulates a line of sight, a smoke trail fading in the sky like a healing scar, leaving bluest skin behind.

Conductor Christian Eggen (cf. a string of Terje Rypdal crossovers, including Undisonus and Q.E.D.) leads a string ensemble in the four-part suite “Himmelrand i Tidevand.” A film within a film, it acts as a talisman for the surrounding material. The subterranean whispers of Part I trace a sister song to Górecki’s Third Symphony in its upward expansions. Whether or not the similarity is conscious, its effect is strong. Seim’s eastward predilections come fully throated in Part II, emoting flexibly against the drone. Henriksen glows again in Part III through terrain of creek and glen. He guides a poised art from Point A to Point Z. At this point, if not already, we realize something cosmic is going on here as Haltli and Nils Jansen (on bass saxophone) point their telescopes toward a supernova’s quiet domain. Part IV gives us the end-title sequence, tranquil and smooth.

Returning to the narrative proper, a breathy “Trio” spawns quiet reflections from drummer Per Oddvar Johansen. Deeper brass tightens its emotional resolve in the face of impending doom, a gaseous planet in mourning. Hands come together in the concluding (but not conclusive) “Prayer,” a jewel of strings that lifts us beyond the pale of our emotional boundaries. Haltli’s bellows remind us of our earthly lives while brushed drums rustle like the leaves of Heaven: a foundation broken, dissolved, and washed down a throat of silence.

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