Trygve Seim / Frode Haltli: Yeraz (2008)
Yeraz is an intimate, deep and beautiful exploration of both instrumental sound and artistic reactions to many different influences. It must be listened to carefully and patiently, not only because it is performed by a duosaxophonist Trygve Seim and accordionist Frode Haltlibut because their musical choices are, for the most part, very subtle and carefully developed.
It is anyone's guess why the music of mystic G. I. Gurdjieff in particular, and traditional/folk music of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Caucuses in general, have come to the fore. This trend is evidenced by not only Yeraz, but also the recent releases of Melos (ECM, 2008) by pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos and cellist Anja Lechner, and Songs Of An Other (ECM, 2008) by vocalist Savina Yannatou & Primavera en Salonico.
In any case, Seim and Haltli have already demonstrated that their interests lie in how music that is almost pure sound, with its melodic content stripped down to the barest essentials, can create a very deep emotional world. Seim, along with trombonist Oyvind Braekke, bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen, created gossamer music on The Source (ECM, 2006); while Haltli arguably went even further as a leader on Passing Images (ECM, 2007), as well as with his work on Eilertsen's Short Stories (AIM Records, 2007).
With both players saying more with less, the Gurdjieff/Middle Eastern/Caucuses influence dominates the first half of the album. Although their roles are clearly definedSeim composed most of the material and takes the melodic leadHaltli is hardly a mere accompanist. His control of the accordion is complete, and his range of sounds and note choices creates an underlying complexity that balances Seim's asceticism. Intensity and tension are created immediately by Haltli's organ-like static pedal underneath the impassioned line of Seim in "Praeludium," which leads to the two Gurdjieff tunes, "Bayaty" and "Duduki."
Introspective sadness is balanced by contemplative joy, as the first half proceeds until Johansen's "MmBall" (which appeared on The Source) is reached. Seemingly built from the simplest of intervals and motives, this tune shines a light and looks forward, pulling out of pessimism and moving towards optimism.
"Fast Jazz" initially sounds random, but eventually can be heard as a highly refracted melody with development. Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" hints at more melody and rhythm without totally committing to them in its sparse structure, and the Tom Waits-inspired "Waits For Waltz" manages to feel like a dance by sheer inference.
Although it demands complete attention, Yeraz is extremely rewarding. Stern but charming, euphonious and dissonant, floating but with strong sinews, Yeraz is a wondrous work of art.
Track Listing: Praeludum / Bayaty / Duduki; Airamero; Introduction / Yeraz; L'altras storia; MmBall; Bhavana; Fast Jazz; Redemption Song; Waits for Waltz; Postludum.
Personnel: Trygve Seim: tenor and soprano saxophones; Frode Haltli: accordion.
Record Label: ECM Records