The recording is a follow-up to the critically-lauded 'The Zoo is Far' (2007), of which the Irish Times wrote, "Explicitly moving away from jazz with this sextet despite the presence of musicians with jazz backgrounds, including himself, Wallumrød has reduced these elements to the peripheral, seeking, above all, a through-composed ensemble music that reflects his contacts with contemporary classical, baroque, Norwegian folk and church music. It's exquisitely performed; the permutating blend of trumpet-violin/Hardanger fiddle/viola-cello-baroque harp and piano or harmonium, with rhythm, is uniquely beautiful." The new album of this uniquely original group offers a suite of 18 sophisticated miniatures some of them based on music by Domenico Scarlatti and Jean-Baptiste Lully.
The ensemble of Christian Wallumrød continues to evolve in its own idiosyncratic way on Outstairs. By now, Wallumrød’s compositional signature is instantly recognizable. Nobody else writes pieces like this – multi-dimensional chamber music inspired by the sonorities of Norwegian folk and church music, influenced by early music and the post-Cage avant-garde, and liberated by jazz’s freedom of thought. This time around, the ensemble members share the arranging credits between them, making the music still more organic and flexible as new sound combinations emerge.
First ECM solo album from the Norwegian violinist who has gained many friends for his work with the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble. Økland’s solo music is strongly inspired by the rich Norwegian fiddle tradition and its freedom, variation and individuality, yet what he plays is not purely ‘folk music’ rather a reinvention of folk forms, with free improvisation and contemporary composition also powerful influences. The ‘personality’ of the instruments themselves is also an inspiration: on “Monograph” Økland makes the most of the ‘drone’ qualities of the viola d’amore and the Hardanger fiddle (he plays both old and modern models) as well as an old violin from 1700, in a recital of subtle and melodic invention.
Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick opts for a different approach on Midwest. Four years after the song-like Skala, his sophomore ECM date that has attained "classic" status in European critical circles, he employs notions of history, folk tradition, and dislocation. This album was inspired by Eick's time spent playing the American continent; his tour began on the West Coast. When he entered the rural, upper Midwest and encountered its vast open spaces, he began to feel a sense of "home." He later learned that over the past two centuries of immigration, over a million Norwegians had settled there. After conceiving a "road" album that would begin in Hem, the village of his birth, and traverse the ocean to America, Eick enlisted violinist Gjermund Larsen (a folk musician who has contributed to Christian Wallumrød's ECM recordings), pianist Jon Balke, double bassist Mats Eilertsen, and percussionist Helge Norbakken. The compositions are all lyrical, in typical Eick fashion, but with Larsen they take on a rougher, more earthen quality.