Trygve Seim ‘Helsinki Songs’ CD (ECM) 5/5

One of the unsung heroes of the ECM label, tenor and soprano saxophonist Trygve Seim delivers one of the unexpected surprises of early autumn with a wonderfully melodic quartet album which is loosely based on Finnish folklore (though the compositions themselves are entirely new and conceived of by the leader) adapted to a jazz context, and here at least there are comparisons to be made with the earlier work of Swedish pianist Jan Johansson, and to a certain extent with some of the work of Norwegian Jan Garbarek. Above all else, it is the sheer melodicism of the music that is communicated by the musicians, and the rhythm section comprising pianist, Kristjan Randalu, double bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Markhu Ounaskari, deserve great credit for their empathetic support throughout. This is beautifully illustrated on, ‘Sol’s song’, with, first a trio intro, and then a gentle tenor solo with the prettiest of themes, while the title track itself is a contender for the album’s most compelling piece and is notable for a gorgeous bass line intro and understated tenor solo. This scribe immediately warmed to the nocturnal atmosphere created and, as with much of the rest of the album, the leader is in no hurry whatsoever and delivers the most laid back of solos. A real asset in a world dominated by individuals who are in too much of a hurry to reach their ultimate destination. One of the multiple attractions of this recording is the myriad moods that are captured and on, ‘Sorrow march’, it is the contemplative quality of the music with Seim reverting to soprano saxophone and playing in a mode that actually sounds more like a violin, and that very effectively conveys the somber mood. In a different vein, the Eastern flavoured, ‘New beginning’, once again features a saxophone akin to a violin, but this time the high-pitched tone is accompanied by drone like piano. Seim displays his aptitude for performing ballads on, ‘Ciaccona per Embrik’, with delicate cymbal and brush work from Ounaskari. Recorded at the Rainbow studios in Oslo to this writer’s ears, this is the strongest album by Trygve Seim to date and a prime example of what the ECM sound is all about.

Tim Stenhouse