Time to dredge up another of those old reviews to clutter the web. 'Solid' and 'sub-ECM' are two bits of fairly faint praise, though all things are relative and there's still lots to enjoy here. I've sampled other bits of Lysne's work over the last year or two, and I know that he'll come good at some point with a really definitive statement.
I realise that Afric Pepperbird didn't make any reference to the slightly disappointing gig by Christian Wallumrød at The Sage last Autumn. This was same Ensemble responsible for the similarly dull Fabula Suite Lugano, their music stuck in a hinterland somewhere between contemporary composition and 'improv'. I prefer the more playful and declamatory Wallumrød, and if I'd never heard great discs such as The Zoo Is Far and A Year From Easter then the Ensemble's rather flat performance with few obvious highs would have left me completely non-plussed.
Wallumrød is the kind of guy who'll keep exploring though, and although not everything will strike a chord with me I'm confident that, just like Lysne, there's a lot more to come from him in the future.
Right, that's it for now...
GEIR LYSNE LISTENING ENSEMBLE
The Grieg Code
Transad Nias; Memorits N’Gneng; Blog Her; Vebburedong; Wonde Hinsisi; Døse Dås; Glossi Vangse; L’omai
Geir Lysne (ts); Morten Halle (as/ss/fl); Tore Bruneborg (ts/fl); Steffen Schorn (bs/bfl); Eckhard Bauer (t/flh); Jesper Riis (t/flh); Arkady Shilkloper (frhn/flh); Helge Sunde (tb); Lars A Haug (tba); Jørn Øien (ky/elec); Bjørn Kjellemyr (b); Andreas Bye (d); Terje Isungset (voc/perc). Recorded 6/08.
Composer and saxophonist Geir Lysne has been bubbling under for a few years now, picking up awards in his native Norway and notching a string of releases on the Eurojazz-friendly ACT label. Although principally working within jazz, Lysne has a background in teaching and can sometimes be found playing in classical ensembles. Bringing together his many stylistic interests for this project, what we get is a nod to fellow countryman and musical predecessor Edvard Grieg. Commissioned for a conference in the great composer’s honour, the music of The Grieg Code places fragments of his themes, heavily disguised and anagrammatically re-titled by Lysne, into contemporary clothing.
Lysne’s subtle use of electronics and voices is very Norwegian, and you’ve probably guessed that he’s not simply doing jazz versions of Grieg. Lysne prismatically diffuses the source material, using a band bristling with familiar voices. Jon Balke’s brass-heavy Oslo 13 an important touchstone, but although the Jan Erik Kongshaug/Rainbow Studios production sounds reassuringly familiar, the project couldn’t really be described as sub-ECM. A handful of scholars may attempt to crack the code and identify the fragments Lysne has lifted, but to enjoy the music you need never know his points of reference. It may not be the record to set 2009 ablaze, but if you like the contemporary Scandinavian sound, this is a solid disc that you’ll want to return to many times.