Passing Images

Frode Haltli

Frode Haltli, acknowledged as one of the most outstanding accordion soloists in contemporary music, is also an exceptional improviser and an authority on folk music. His second ECM recording under his own name brings all of these aspects of his musical character together. Repertoire includes a psalm from the western fjords, a lyrical waltz from Haltli‘s home village near the Swedish border, a Roma traveller tune that suggests Albert Ayler‘s sound-world… With a supporting cast including Irish-Scottish classical viola player Garth Knox (ex-Arditti Quartet) as well as Norwegian partners composer/singer Maja Ratkje and trumpeter Arve Henriksen, Haltli offers a radical new look at music from traditional sources.

Featured Artists Recorded

December 2004, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date


  • 1Psalm
    (Frode Haltli, Traditional)
  • 2Inter
    (Arve Henriksen, Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje, Traditional)
  • 3The Letter
    (Frode Haltli, Traditional)
  • 4Lude
    (Arve Henriksen, Frode Haltli, Garth Knox, Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje, Traditional)
  • 5Vandring
    (Frode Haltli, Traditional)
  • 6Pre
    (Frode Haltli, Traditional)
  • 7Jag haver ingen kärare
    (Frode Haltli, Traditional)
  • 8Lyrisk vals
    (Frode Haltli, Traditional)
  • 9Passing Images
    (Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje, Traditional)
  • 10Vals
    (Frode Haltli, Traditional)
On Passing Images, his second solo release, Haltli recalls traditional music from his homeland – a psalm from the western fjords, a waltz from the village where he grew up close to the Swedish border, a song of Romany travellers – and creates something fresh and singular. This is gentle and plaintive music mostly, carefully paced, meticulously played and served well by characteristically lucid ECM recording. Haltli is assisted by singer Maja Ratkje, Supersilent trumpeter Arve Henriksen and Garth Knox on viola. They are used sparingly and effectively, supplementing the accordion’s expressive range and heightening mood through harmonic coloration. …
Haltli revisits the past without sentimentality and makes it current in music that is both beautiful and exciting.
Julian Cowley, The Wire
Haltli plays accordion, which might whittle down the constituency for this at a stroke. It shouldn’t, because it’s beautiful. Drawing on Norwegian folk themes and with contributions in varying combinations from trumpeter Arve Henriksen, violist Garth Knox and singer Maja Ratkje, he makes something graceful and beautifully shaped, often in dance metres.
Brian Morton, Jazzreview
Inspired by Norwegian folk, Haltli’s slow and beautiful music inhabits it’s own little world somewhere between contemporary classical and folk. But with ethereal trumpeter Arve Henriksen on hand, Haltli’s lilting, plaintive music inhales heavily on the spirit of jazz and Eastern music. Sublimely perfect.
Kerstan Mackness, Time Out
Der junge Norweger ... beweist mit Passing Images was ein Avantgardist aus Traditionen machen kann. ... Traumhaft schöne Melodien wie der Titel „Psalm“ werden mit Passagen konfrontiert, die frei wirken. Dann wieder seziert das Quartett eine traditionelle Vorlage in eigenwillige Details hinein und produziert tonale Breitwandflächen, aus denen wiederum eine melodische Weise im norwegischen Walzerformat entsteht.
Hans Petry, Jazzthing
Vieles von dem, was seine musikalischen Urahnen bis hinüber nach Schweden an nordisch-melancholischen Elegien hinterlassen haben, hat Haltli aufgegriffen und in eine wundersam zwitterhafte Welt aus suggestiver Einfachheit und verwinkelter Experimentierlust überführt. Und dies mit einem exzellenten Ensemble: mit dem lyrischen Melos-Trompeten-Meister Arve Henriksen, den mit avantgardistischen Spieltechniken hochbewanderten Garth Knox an der Bratsche und mit der Sirene Maja Ratkje, die durch ihren Schlund artistische Laute kegeln lässt oder mit weitem fließenden Atem beruhigende Oden beisteuert. Wenngleich eine meditative Stimmung herrscht, so ist diese aufgeladen mit Überraschungen und unerwarteten Nuancen.
Guido Fischer, Jazzthetik
Passing Images stellt Haltlis Musikergeschichte auf den Kopf : Nun spielt er von Volksmusik abgeleitete Stücke mit der Seriosität eines wahrhaft ernsten Musikers… Die Musik – zu Recht nennt sich Haltli Komponist – ist ein Erinnern alter Klänge; Freude kommt auf, Angst, Trauer, Gottnahes – Frode Haltli beherrscht im Wortsinn das Vergangene, macht es nutzbar für seine gegenwärtigen Absichten, die auf eine Synthese hinauszulaufen scheinen, eine Synthese von vorvergangenem Sentiment und kühler, wissenschaftlicher Betrachtung der von ihm heraufbeschworenen Klänge.
Karl Bruckmaier, Süddeutsche Zeitung

   On ECM Frode Haltli has been heard thus far as a brilliant interpreter of contemporary composed music – his New Series album “Looking on Darkness”, with music of Bent Sørensen, Magnus Lindberg, Maja Ratkje and others winning a Norwegian ‘Grammy’, the Spellemannpris, and the French Prix Gus Viseur. He has also been heard as an improviser on recordings with Trygve Seim – in Seim’s large ensemble on “Sangam” and as guest with post-free jazz collective The Source (see “The Source and Different Cikadas”).

On “Passing Images”, however, the Norwegian accordionist offers something quite different: a new reckoning with some of the music that first inspired him, and a decidedly untraditional view of the Norwegian folk tradition. Here we find, for instance, a psalm from the western fjords, a lyrical waltz from Haltli’s home village near the Swedish border, a Roma traveller tune that mysteriously evokes Albert Ayler’s sound-world, and much more.

Under the tutelage of Erik Bergene, Frode Haltli came to contemporary music early, but simultaneously, and with enthusiasm, began playing folk music in his local village community. At 13 he was the youngest member of a traditional dance band. The songs he learned then subsequently remained part of his musical frame of reference.

“‘Pre’, ‘Lyrisk vals’ and ‘Passing Images’ are all from the same source. I grew up in Våler i Solør in south-eastern Norway. Long after I moved from my home village I heard a recording of the local fiddler Gustav Kåterud (1882-1941), and both his technique and the recording quality was so blurred, but still extremely interesting in its dualistic tonality and waltz-like tempo that it soon triggered the imagination to find possible ways to blow new life into it. The first result ‘Lyrisk vals,’ (‘Lyrical Waltz’) has been with me some years as a more or less improvised piece for solo accordion. For this CD I made a new version and added viola and trumpet. I also made a shorter composition, ‘Pre’ for accordion and viola, taking the music even further out of the woods. ‘Passing Images’, with the under-title waltz is originally a piece for solo accordion by Maja S.K. Ratkje composed in 2003 with ‘Lyrisk vals’ in her memory.”

Norwegian journalist Erland Kiøsterud has written that “each time Haltli improvises on Gustav Kåterud's ‘Lyrical Waltz’ it is in a slightly new version. With a completely modern feeling for time, we don't know if we are listening to traditional music or modern, cornfields billowing in the wind or waves of big city conversation, we are taken into a meditative, almost sacred holy place, as complex as it is simple, the sounds thrill with collective life and moods, genre boundaries are broken down; with his playing Haltli raises this waltz to a sphere entirely its own, a new musical dimension is created.” This is surely true here, the uniquely constituted personnel of the group, specially assembled for this recording, offering a kaleidoscopic view of traditional music, its perspectives continually shifting...
2024 July 20 Literaturfest Nantesbuch Bad Heilbrunn, Germany
2024 September 06 Nasjonal Jazzscene, Victoria Oslo, Norway