Anders Jormin: Xieyi (ECM 1762)


Anders Jormin

Anders Jormin double-bass
Robin Rydqvist trumpet, flugelhorn
Krister Petersson french horn
Lars-Göran Carlsson trombone
Niclas Rydh bass trombone
Recorded December 17, 1999 at Artisten, Göteborg
Engineer: Johannes Lundberg
Produced by Manfred Eicher

The Chinese title of Anders Jormin’s Xieyi (寫意) means, literally, “to write one’s intentions.” It also names a style of ink painting. Both conceptions—the linguistic and the visual—adequately describe the Swedish bassist’s attempts to sing with his instrument. The result is a session of quiet drama that purges expectations in favor of in-the-moment expressivity. Emerging here on his own after successful ECM tenures with Charles Lloyd, Bobo Stenson, Tomasz Stanko, and Don Cherry, Jormin dips us into a unique world of robust tension, for what began as a solo bass project soon grew, at producer Manfred Eicher’s suggestion, to incorporate morsels for brass quartet. The latter begin, end, and dot the program with cellular interludes, each mobilizing a general reflective theme. These passionate, moveable cores constitute the printing press of all the verbal excursions that occur between them.

The accompanying CD booklet informs us that Xieyi was recorded in one swoop on a rainy December evening. Yet the music is anything but compressed or dank. Rather, it soothes with a warm respect for the many sources recalled at Jormin’s fingertips. From Sibelius to Ornette Coleman and Violetta Parra, Swedish tone poems to children’s songs and improvisations, the sequencing carries us through a globetrotting journey, crystallizing in that single instrument.

Jormin’s unpretentious ability to pluck out the melody behind the melody (listen, for instance, to his harmonic-infused take on Parra’s “Gracias a la vida”) establishes and upholds a strong corporeal presence. Rounded and emotionally descriptive, his musculature acts out every story at hand with interlocking grace. Like teeth biting the edge of a coin, it tests every note for its integrity. At times he folds private shapes from the mind’s origami paper (as in “Idas sommarvisa”), while at others he flings open notions of love like church doors to the world at large. The spontaneous notecraft of tracks such as “Decimas” and “Tenk” further connect ideas by dividing them, thus appreciating their individuality by means of an emerging collective effect. Animated gestures intertwine with winged reciprocation, marking time with glissandi and gaping sluices, through which the trickle of things melodiously passes…

Jormin presents two pieces by composer Stefan Forssén. “Och kanske är det natt” is the album’s most lyrical, a gnarled thing of beauty steeped in nature. “Sonett till Cornelis” is another gem, a recitation of invisible texts. Jormin then pairs his own “Scents” with the ornamental language of “Fragancia” by composer Evert Taube. Its slow trills and deep returns lend plenty of wonder to the scenery. And in that scenery the clearest figure takes shape in the jazz touchstone that is “War Orphans,” realized here with arco brilliance as a dirge of infinite wisdom under the close watch of finitude.

One look at the album’s cover should tell you what this is like: a swath of ever-changing monochrome across which hymns and songs leave their intermittent trail.

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