Christian Wallumrød Ensemble: A Year From Easter (ECM 1901)

A Year From Easter

Christian Wallumrød Ensemble
A Year From Easter

Christian Wallumrød piano, harmonium, toy piano
Nils Økland violin, Hardanger fiddle, viola d’amore
Arve Henriksen trumpet
Per Oddvar Johansen drums
Recorded September 2004 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

A Year From Easter is the third ECM leader date for pianist Christian Wallumrød. Nourished on the same label’s diet, his skills as an improviser (and as a composer) have sprouted fields of their own making and artfully striate the colors of fiddler extraordinaire Nils Økland, trumpeter Arve Henriksen, and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen into the present spectrum. Wallumrød has always folded his aesthetic along tactile creases, but the chambering of Easter finds him unusually palpable.

The triangular melody of “Arch Song” sets the stage accordingly, scanning its laser of pathos across the barcode of “Eliasong” (and its deeper sequel) with equal precision. From gray to shining gold, Henriksen’s elliptical reasoning morphs over harmonium, an instrument Wallumrød plays to further, glassy effect on “Lichtblick.” With the gentility of breeze through poplars, his keyboarding—regardless of instrument—puts lips to candle and blows just enough to make things flicker. Such is the bearing of “Stompin’ At Gagarin,” a delightfully programmatic piece that emits Wallumrød’s east-leaning aura. His understated feel for arrangement and storytelling is clearest in such tunes, as also in “Japanese Choral.” Here, over an icy surface, keys and horn unfold with chromatic purpose, misted like a Kenji Mizoguchi still.

Ugetsu

Indeed, cinematic feelings abound. Like a crafted visual story, the slow figurations of “Wedding Postponed” build into dynamically richer constructions as more characters are introduced. Similar impulses mark “Horseshoe Waltz,” of which the pianism beams an attic of clattering relics. Pizzicato strings scuttle along the hard wood, carving rays of light into the air by freshly liberated dust plumes.

Yet the album’s focus remains out of doors, the title track being a representative example. With its warming skies and leaf-lined pathways, it leads us to the sacred spaces of tunes like “Psalm” and “Neunacht,” both like hymns reverse engineered to their stained-glass origins. Such is Wallumrød’s approach: conjoining cells of color by the solder of his crafting. In the latter solo piano piece, block chords process like candle-bearers from rear to fore, making way for linear melodies and violin sketches. Rasping across the night, his motifs swing ably from tree to barren tree, leaving ashen poetry in their wake.

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