Anders Jormin/Lena Willemark/Karin Nakagawa ‘Trees of Light’ (ECM) 4/5

trees-of-lightIn recent decades ECM has played a leading role in the promotion of world fusion music and this is no better illustrated than on this fascinating project that combines Swedish instrumental and vocal folk music with the Japanese koto. In order to fully appreciate this interweaving of folk music traditions, one means of comparison for the general listener might be the wonderful Tony Scott album from 1964, ‘Music for Zen Meditation’, that fused clarinet with flute and koto to such thrilling effect. In this new example, the music was performed by the trio for a full two years prior to the musicians going into the studio to record in Gothenburg and the results in general are excellent with odd caveat. This writer was especially taken by the instrumental pieces with Hirajoshi’ an outstanding number and more of the same calibre would be very welcome on future projects. Interestingly, despite the extensive use of the twenty-five string koto from Nakigawa, in places the feel is distinctly Celtic-sounding as on ‘Urbanus’ which features a steady bass line in tandem with koto. The vocals from Lena Willemark are quite offbeat and do require repeated listening before they fully envelop the mind and the genesis of the lyrics emanates from poems that Willemark herself has composed. Swedish double bassist Anders Jormin impresses throughout in the same way Dave Holland shone on ‘Thimar’. A series of concerts have already taken place in Sweden in March and the trio have now moved on to Japan where they will be performing during May.

Tim Stenhouse