«Orsa by Night» is the second collaboration between Swedish author musician Thomas Tidholm and sax player Jonas Knutsson, after the duo debut poetry plus horns «Himlen Har Inga Hål» (Heaven Has No Holes), released independently on 2007. The two met in a workshop focused on playing Swedish folk tunes on wind instruments in the historical province Hälsingland in central Sweden where Knutsson taught and Tidholm read his work. A year later the two met again. By this time both were fascinated by the music from Orsa – also located in central Sweden – tunes with singular twists, full of tales.
Knutsson and Tidholm kept working on the these tunes, with no rush to record them, on and off for about five years. «Drones and shifts arose, we played the tunes more freely. Lots of associations came and we made room for them – canticles and songs, tales of our own, new tunes. Shostakovitch often sat in a corner, Gil Evans made a polska, anything could happen», Tidholm wrote in the liner notes. «We never left Orsa, but the world became a little bigger every time”.
The saxophones of Knutsson with the clarinet of Tidholm succeed to evoke a highly vivid, cinematic scenery of a place out of time. Their instruments voices become one, resonating and solidifying each other nuanced melodic ideas with a reserved sense of drama and storytelling. The two sketch together an intriguing sonic territory, rich with tradition – even though only four tunes are based on Swedish traditional songs–yet has an irreverent, playful approach to this tradition. There are subtle references to the orchestration colors of Gil Evans on «Polska efter Gil», but spiced with a light polska dance pulse; Indian raga-like drones morph into melancholic Armenian-tinged duduk-like playing, as on «Vår och Vimplar» and «Raga efter Grins Hans» and more often Knutsson and Tidholm sound as a choral choir of wind instruments. On three tunes Tidholm reads three of his poems in his deep, suggestive voice, stressing even more the colorful, dramatic atmosphere of Orsa.
Highly moving. Highly recommended.
Thomas Tidholm (cl, v, words); Jonas Knutsson (s, perc, keys)