Aug 13 2013
Pianist Christian Wallumrod very much falls within the parameters of a typical ECM Records release… a Nordic varietal of Jazz heavily influenced by some strain of regional folk music, and produced with a chamber music sensibility. However, over the course of his career with ECM, he’s developing a personalized sound that very much differentiates his music from that of his labelmates.
An early album like 1998’s No Birch more closely resembled a standard ECM Nordic Jazz release… sonorous melodies, intermittent rhythmic statements, and a weighty atmospheric presence. 2001’s Sofienberg Variations expanded upon this sound with a larger ensemble by adding violin and sax; however, the music still possessed a thick drowsiness.
That changed with 2004’s A Year From Easter. Sax was dropped from the line-up, bringing it back down to the same quartet of musicians on the previous release, but now Wallumrod was extending his reach into the folk musics of other regions, while simultaneously bringing a stronger chamber jazz element to the music and cleaning house of the atmospheric effects. This trend took a huge step up to the next plateau with the 2007 release The Zoo Is Far, an outstanding example of how brilliantly a correct cross-pollination of genre and regional music influences can sound. A sonic gem, it showed Wallumrod had broadened his perspective to a more holistic view of music, its commonalities, and the unique qualities that made each so special. And he presented it with crosshatched method of interweaving seemingly disparate elements into a seamless whole.
2009’s Fabula Suite Lugano took one final step away from Jazz and placing both feet squarely into chamber music territory. The addition of harp and cello, as well as bringing in Eivind Lønning to replace Arve Henriksen in the trumpet slot, were ingredients that gave Wallumrod a more expansive canvas with which to work and opened up his music into music that just sounded bigger.
With his 2013 release Outstairs, Wallumrod continues to dig in his feet as he develops a chamber music sound that reaches out to many influences while sounding very much his own thing.
Your album personnel: Christian Wallumrød (piano, harmonium, toy piano), Eivind Lønning (trumpet), Gjermund Larsen (violin, hardanger fiddle, viola), Espen Reinertsen (tenor saxophone), Tove Törngren (cello), and Per Oddvar Johansen (drums, vibraphone).
It’s an album of meditative pieces expressed across the range of emotions. Cerebral piano musings are accompanied by a slow percussive resonance and the gentle drone of strings and sax like an orange sun rising over the horizon. Chipper folk songs are performed with a stately elegance, resulting in tunes one could tap their foot to were it not impolite to do so.
At times, piano and strings strike dissonant chords, accentuating darker tones and blacker moods, but the album balances this out with the most beautiful warming harmonies. Long swaths of melodic pronouncements are buffeted by rhythmic eddies bubbling up to the surface.
Strict formulas are adhered to, but their inventive nature makes the lack of spontaneity seem like a small thing when compared to their sublime majesty. Even those moments when the song seems unbound by structure and form, the various elements remain in place and behave as instructed. It is a form of magic conducted through science.
And it is an album with a unique personality.
Released on the ECM Records label.
Stream the album track “Beatknit” on the ECM Records site.