Somnambule - Writing About Music

Christian Wallumrod Ensemble

The Spitz
29th September 2005

Christian Wallumrod begins to play daintily. His touch sure, but with an undertow of hesitation, he sketches out a skeletal melody. The sound of Arve Henriksen’s breath travelling the valves and tubes of his trumpet and the sight of Nils Okland silently sweeping bow over violin accompanies him. As the ensemble becomes audible they delineate shapes that are almost ascetic, but bent with angles and shades more often associated with Alban Berg or Leos Janacek than small group jazz. The result is a pensive chamber music that initially keeps to the shadows, the folk forms that inform it only just spied in the dusk. As percussionist Per Oddvar Johansen joins them, his muted clatter suggests a domestic scene run gently amok. The urgent dissonance of Nils Okland scrabbling at the strings of his fiddle unexpectedly overtakes the steadily building majesty of his colleagues and prompts a brief, passionate storm which abates as quickly as it arose. The majority of tonight’s music, however, proves to be penumbrally delicate. Woe betide the audience member clumsy enough to knock over a glass,nop he might be linched by his enrapt fellows (towards the end, Christian Wallumrod thanks us for “listening so carefully”).

One piece is founded upon a singing tone elicited by violin bow and small bell, joined by Arve whistling and Okland’s extended violin note. Another, the last part of the Travelling medley first heard on No Birch, stretches out a tick-tocking – of drum rim, trumpet valves, prepared piano and the scraping of a fingernail up and down fiddle string – to conjure the image of a clockmaker’s parlour until Wallumrod takes up the rhythm and maps out a steady solo improvisation. The concert is by turns challenging and rewarding. The group’s gentle, melancholically hymnal music sails just the right side of preciousness and is informed in equal parts by chamber music, Norwegian folk traditions and jazz. To some their sound may appear anachronistic, but to others it will represent an essential engagement with tradition.
Colin Buttimer
Published by Jazzwise magazine
Photograph of Paal Nilssen-Love

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