Each album of the Belgian boutique label Aspen Edities is a feast for the eyes, ears and mind. «A Short Story», the collaboration of Belgian guitarist Ruben Machtelinckx (the head of Aspen Edities) and Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen is one of the best ones on this label. The album is introduced by a poetic saying of French novelist Colette («Le difcile, ce n’est pas de donner, c’est de ne pas tout donner») and its artwork was made by Swedish illustrator Jockum Nordström (corresponding with other colorful artworks of Aspen Edities as well as with Henriksen’s «The Nature of Connections», made by Kim Hiorthøy for Rune Grammofon).
Machtelinckx has collaborated before with Norwegian musicians – drummer Øyvind Skarbø, violinist Nils Økland and percussionist Ingar Zach, but the acoustic duo format suit him best. Henriksen is described as «one of the world’s gentlest, sweetest and purest trumpet players». «A Short Story» was recorded at Kunstencentrum Nona in Mechelen, Belgium in August 2021, and documents the first-ever meeting of Machtelinckx and Henriksen. Machtelinckx wrote eight pieces and four improvised pieces are credited to Machtelinckx and Henriksen.
«A Short Story» captures the essence of Colette’s saying. It is about giving and sharing. An intimate and quiet meeting where Machtelinckx and Henriksen share simple acoustic stories with singable melodies and strong harmonies and a few mysterious textures. Both musicians have their own highly personal languages – Machtelinckx with his unique guitar tunings and Henriksen with his breathing-singing tone that brings to mind the Japanese bamboo flute Shakuhachi (associated with Zen Buddhism). And when such gifted and gentle musicians meet and begin to play together, their reserved and poetic stories tell about the magical wonders of an immediate, deep affinity of like-minded creative artists. Often, the serene, modest beauty of pieces like «Strands of Black Hair», «Stone Garden» (both credited to Machtelinckx and Henriksen) or «Leaves, Birds and Grapes» and «Dawning» (both by Machtelinckx) is so straightforward that it may hurt a little.
Sometimes you do not need more than a few simple ingredients for the most tasteful feast. You can only hope that Machtelinckx and Henriksen will keep sharing many more stories with us.
Ruben Machtelinckx (g, tenor g), Arve Henriksen (tp)