Norwegian musician and composer Geir Lysne has been heavily influenced by world roots music and, similar to his countryman Jan Garbarek, has incorporated this into his music. The result is an album that sounds very contemporary and might have been the kind of album that Joe Zawinul would have made, and is a logical progression from the former’s 1990s collaboration with Salif Keita. There are certainly hints of Garbarek on the opener ‘Please welcome!’, yet that is where the parallel ends since the Lyle Mays-influenced keyboards and Niels-Peter Molvaer trumpet sound take the music in an altogether different direction. South-East Asia seems to be a major source of inspiration for Lysne and this is best illustrated on a number such as ‘A million stars’ which features the lead vocals of Vietnamese singer Huong Tanh. Guest guitarist Nguyen Lê adds his own touch with the sensitive use of electronics that creates an additional layer of sound. Equally evocative of more tropical climates is the flute-led piece ‘Sakin’ where, after the initial solo on flute, Lysne then reverts back to tenor saxophone for a warm, relaxed delivery.
It is clear that Geir Lysne is primarily pre-occupied with breaking down musical boundaries and his talent as an arranger and leader of big bands first surfaced with the Listening Ensemble in 1999 and then with the German NDR Big Band for which he has received the Echo Jazz award this year. Throughout the latest album orchestral textures are omnipresent and a key element in the musical métissage is the participation and collaboration of musical partner Reidar Skar. This is one of ACTs most imaginative and inventive releases of the year. Tim Stenhouse