Trygve Seim ‘Rumi Songs’ (ECM) 3/5

trygve-seimNorwegian saxophonist Trygve Seim has featured as sideman on various recent ECM recordings, but on this occasion he is leader for a recording that is inspired by the poems of thirteenth century poet Jelahuddin Rumi that have been transposed into English by an American translator in the 1970s. if this sounds a tad complex for a music project, then the lyrics sung in English by Tora Augestad are folk-inspired and do facilitate our understanding of the poetry. Even by ECMs usual standards, this is an eclectic affair. However, this writer would have preferred from a musical perspective if the lyrics had been dispensed with altogether and instead the instrumental side had been emphasized more. That oversight is a pity because Seim is a gifted tenor and soprano saxophone player who on this album is simply not afforded the space in which to stretch out fully. That said, the use of violincello by Svante Henryson and accordion from Frodi Haltlil hints at Piazzolla, as on the intro to ‘Seeing double’. The combination of instrumentation and vocals works best on the downtempo, ‘In your beauty’, where the cello acts as a kind of double bass. Overall, the saxophone here is lost and would have been enhanced by tablas and sitar rather than vocals. Full English lyrics are contained in the detailed inner sleeve notes (another recent ECM innovation) by Steve Lake.

Tim Stenhouse