Trygve Seim: Rumi Songs (ECM 2449)

2449 X

Trygve Seim
Rumi Songs

Tora Augestad vocal
Frode Haltli accordion
Svante Henryson violoncello
Trygve Seim soprano and tenor saxophones
Recorded February 2015 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: August 26, 2016

A natural intersection of musicians, bound by the mysticism of Rumi, Rumi Songs is saxophonist and composer Trygve Seim’s love letter to a poet whose influences broke the world wide open when rendered into English by Coleman Barks, whose translations are used almost exclusively throughout. For this project Seim welcomes accordionist Frode Haltli and cellist Svante Henryson, both members of his larger ensemble, alongside vocalist Tora Augestad.

The introductory “In Your Beauty” sounds like breathing itself. It also establishes the melding of accordion and cello, the purity of Augestad’s singing, and the aching lyricism of Seim’s reed. From this bud emerges the petals of “Seeing Double,” which checks off love, borders of the flesh, and self-questioning: all constant themes in Rumi’s poetry. Although the instrumentation stays the same in number, it widens in scope, as Seim allows his freedom to shine forth without hesitation.

Rumi Portrait
(Photo credit: Knut Bry)

Where “Across The Doorsill” is more playful, detailed, and surreal in that way children might usually be, “The Guest House” has a mature and mournful tinge, as underscored by Henryson’s bow. Linguistically, it speaks in right angles and architectural forms, much like its titular structure, at the same time rounding its back with the skill of an experienced yoga practitioner into one methodical pose after another.

While there are jewels of optimism to be unearthed here, such the droning lullaby of “Like Every Other Day” and the latticed groove of the tango-esque examination of desire that is “When I See Your Face,” the general mood floats somewhere between dreaming and brooding. “Leaving My Self” is the most haunting song of the collection in this respect. A curious rendering of parental sacrifice and interstitial love, its accordion acts as drone for the cello’s snaking lines. Seim is noticeably absent this time, taking in the wind. Even “Whirling Rhythms,” an instrumental inspired by Seim’s pilgrimage to Konya to see Rumi’s tomb for himself, has about it an air of darker contemplation.

In the closing “There Is Some Kiss We Want,” Seim switches to soprano. An enchanting creation, it yields a stanza that best expresses the relationship at hand of sound and text:

At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine
“Breathe into me”

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