Trygve Seim, Andreas Utnem – Purcor
(ECM 274 3227, CD Review by Chris Parker, Photo Credit: Morton Krogvold)
Pianist/liturgical composer Andreas Utnem describes the music on this, the debut recording from his 13-year duo with saxophonist Trygve Seim, as ‘improvised church music’, but the album’s subtitle, ‘Songs for Saxophone and Piano’ is perhaps more revealing, since it embraces the entire range of Purcor‘s repertoire, which includes the odd folk song and improvisation as well as Kyries, Credos, Agnus Deis and Pater Nosters.
That said, the music Seim and Utnem produce is imbued with a quiet reverence entirely appropriate to its church setting (which also imparts a useful echo to the sound), and as Seim himself notes, there is ‘a special simplicity and clarity’ in both Utnem’s compositions and playing. The more secular-minded, however, will be immediately impressed by the extraordinary textural variety in Seim’s saxophone playing, whether he’s operating on tenor or soprano. Exposure to Asian and Middle Eastern music has left its mark on his approach: many pieces, for instance, begin with just breathing audible, tone and body emerging only sporadically fromhis horn like flames flickering from the smoke in a smouldering log; others employ microtonal phrasing, smears and wisps interspersed with full-blooded skirls of Garbarek-like intensity.
Consequently, the duo’s music is meditative and occasionally rapturous, but also surprisingly adventurous and original, and this is a consistently absorbing, sometimes downright hypnotic, fourteen-piece programme.