The Norwegian quartet The Source has a long history but unfortunately a slim discography. The quartet was founded in 1993 by former students of the Trondheim Music Conservatory – trombonist Øyvind Brække, sax player Trygve Seim, double bass player Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen. Finn Guttormsen replaced Håker Flaten in 1996 and was replaced in 2004 by Mats Eilertsen, both are also former students of the acclaimed Conservatory. The Source began as a quartet exploring the American free jazz of the sixties, spicing its aesthetics with Steve Coleman-esque funk and John Zorn-angular lines, later collaborated with the art-rock Motorpsycho, and became famous for its annual legendary Christmas celebrations, with many distinguished guests, later expanded also into summer celebrations.
« …but swinging doesn´t bend them down» features The Source, with no guests, and is only the third album of the quartet in such format, following its debut «Olemanns Kornett» (Curling Legs, 1994) and the self-titled album (ECM, 2006). The title borrows a line from American poet Robert Frost’s famous poem «Birches» (1915), describing a child’s dream of climbing the treetops and swinging birch branches. The album was recorded at Hallibakken Lydproduksjon in Nesbyen in October 2019.
The poetic titles capture faithfully the essence of The Source. The Source swings naturally between familiar, lyrical Nordic jazz, sensual jazz shuffle, exotic Eastern spells (as already experienced in the Christmas oriental celebrations) and abstract, free improvisations. The generous, almost seventy minutes and the 14 pieces of « …but swinging doesn´t bend them down» cover all sides of The Source, reflecting, as Frost’s poem suggests, free, spontaneous play with and collective interplay, or sheer, innocent joy with a careful yet flexible balance.
Brække is the main composer and is credited with seven pieces, and often he is the main soloist, but Seim, Eilertsen and Johansen also contributed compositions. It is clear immediately that The Source still keeps its own sound and dynamics – melodic, emphatic and leisured, free-flowing but nuanced; dynamics that highlight the profound and subtle yet reserved interplay of the quartet and its sense of humor and irony (as the cover photo suggests, taken by Nick Alexander and based on photographer Knut Bry´s beautiful photos from Hallibakken). The Source sounds like a band that simply enjoys playing together, and is still eager to experience new ideas and take few risks. The pieces that impressed me most are Brække’s seductive «Limbo», Eilertsen’s «Spring Psalm» and Seim’s «Raag Löyly», on the latter two Seim sounds as extending the meditative veins explored on his «Rumi Songs» (ECM, 2016), and Johansen’s melancholic «Theme for Alvar Wirkola». But You can trust these fine and wise gentlemen that their own sources of music keep flowing with inspired themes, in whatever incarnation of The Source or their individual projects.
Øyvind Brække (tb), Trygve Seim (s), Per Oddvar Johansen (dr), Mats Eilertsen (b)