Recorded at Tøyen Kirke, a church in the older part of Oslo, this intensely melodic album provides overdue documentation of a duo that already has a 13-year history. Subtitled simply “Songs for saxophone and piano”, it quietly covers a lot of territory. Andreas Utnem speaks of “improvised church music” - with repertoire including new musical settings of parts of the Mass - as a central focus, and we also find here folk songs, theatre music, freely-created pieces, and a new version of Seim’s softly-breathing meditation “Bhavana” (first heard on “Different Rivers”).
Around 1997, liturgical composer Utnem, then working with Norway’s Church City Mission foundation, invited saxophonist Seim to join him for selected services, and the two musicians improvised around variations on the psalms. “We also played some of Andreas’s compositions and some of mine as well,” Seim recalls. These early meetings soon led to an informal semi-regular ‘gig’ and in 2008 the players decided to record some of the music they had shaped along the way.
“Andreas’s background is quite different from my own,” Seim notes, “but there is something about his composing that brings out a ‘focusing’ quality in my playing. Over time we’ve arrived at a special simplicity and clarity in the music which pleases me very much.”
“Purcor” is Trygve Seim’s sixth ECM album as leader or co-leader, and a label debut for Andreas Utnem. Born 1973, Utnem has received some international attention through his work with the trio of Norwegian folk fiddler Gjermund Larsen (who, incidentally, also plays with Christian Wallumrød – see the CD “Fabula Suite Lugano”. Parenthetically, it may also be noted that both Wallumrød and a third ECM pianist, Tord Gustavsen, have also played in the weekday mass in the Toyen church. In the North, where folk music is frequently adopted and adapted in religious contexts, the ‘borders’ between idioms may be more porous). Alongside work is as church musician and composer of music for theatre and TV dramas, both in Norway and Sweden, Utnem also plays in the jazz quartet of guitarist Bjørn Klakegg.
Inspired early in his creative life by Jan Garbarek and by Edward Vesala, Trygve Seim has worked in many modern jazz contexts. In his own music, however, distance from conventional definitions of jazz is recalibrated with each project. Investigation of Asian, Middle Eastern and East European music – and especially the sounds of the Armenian duduk, the Japanese shakuhachi, and the Indian bansuri flute – have had their impact on Seim’s music. Subtle shadings and textures are part of his palette, and microtonal phrasing characteristic of his melodic approach, as he glide and slurs between the notes. At the same time, though, it is possible to listen to Trygve’s breathy tenor on the ballads here and perceive occasional echoes of Ben Webster in the sound, in the tenderness and depth of feeling...
In addition to his discography as a leader (albums include “Different Rivers”, “The Source and Different Cikadas”, “Sangam” and “Yeraz”, the recent duo with accordionist Frode Haltli) and as a member of The Source, Trygve Seim appears on ECM recordings by Iro Haarla (“Northbound”), Sinikka Langeland (“Starflowers”) – new albums with both Haarla and Langeland are in preparation Christian Wallumrød (“Sofienberg Variations”), and Manu Katché (“Playground”). Other recent activities have included extended stays in Cairo, where Seim studied Arabian modes and played concerts with pianist Fathy Salama and others.
Plans to present the “Purcor” music in live contexts are currently being developed.