Danish young trumpeter Jakob Sørensen released early this year the most beautiful «Bagland» album, strongly rooted in the Nordic melodic-melancholic school ofte associated with many ECM albums. Now he expands this elusive sound with a cooperative trio coming from the vibrant Aarhus scene. ELM trio , featuring pianist Mathias Jæger and drummer Frej Lesner- both played on «Bagland» – suggest concise improvisations inspired by songs from Højskolesangbogen The songbook of Danish folk schools, and Den Danske Salmebog, The Danish book of church hymns.
Obviously, the idea of interpreting Nordic hymns is far from being original. It goes back to Swedish pianist Jan Johansson classic album from 1964 «Jazz på Svenska», and more recent interpretations of such hymns were recorded by the Norwegians double bass player Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and sax player Håkon Kornstad («Elise», 2008 and «Mitt hjerte altid vanker – I», 2011).
ELM trio worked for two years before finalizing its debut album. Most of the songs are introduced by a form of choir singing – vocal duet, choir for mixed vocals, male choir – all sung in Danish – or piano and trumpet solos. These communal folk motives are used as the main idioms for the open, free improvisations. All these improvisations maintain the melodic, highly emotional core of the traditional folk songs, even at its most spare, meditative moments.
The trio succeeds to form a clear sound of its own – contemplative, ethereal and moving, highlighting a reserved, emphatic interplay but one that is not reverential in its spirit. Sørensen adopts a slow, whispering tone of singing-playing, Lesnar uses his drum kit to offer subtle colors and Jæger elaborates wisely on fragments of the original themes. Only on the 9-minutes improvisation, «Jeg havde mig en hjertenskær», the trio really challenges the common melodic pattern of its previous improvisations and experiments in searching for dissonant, fractured means of improvisation, still in an emphatic interplay.
ELM trio manages to establish a new form of communal art, one that is not relying on old scriptures but suggests unorthodox and challenging ideas about beauty and community.
Jakob Sørensen (tp); Mathias Jæger (p); Frej Lesnar (dr, perc)