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.
Where the typical ECM continental European chamber sound has been associated with Norwegian pianist Christian Wallumrod, Fabula Suite Lugano adds a new, expansive flavor to what might be expected. This rather ambitious program features a core ensemble, but the sounds are bigger or smaller depending on the inspiration or thematic concept. At the center of many tracks is the violin and viola of Gjermund Larsen and cellist Tanja Orning, but the Baroque harp, as played by Giovanna Pessi, adds more bright colors, while the lone horn (trumpet) of Eivind Lonnig completes the cycle of mystery to this spatial, in-the-main haunting music.
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.
What must be heard by contemporary jazz generalists as a typical ECM type European music creation, pianist Christian Wallumrod has conjured up a nomadic series of themes that touch on various strains of ethnic music. Echoes of classical and chamber musics, and Manfred Eicher's brand of tonally reserved, emotionally balanced, and coolly rendered sounds provide a rich but predictable musical palette. The title A Year from Easter might suggest many themes of hope, looking forward, sudden dismay, prayers for peace and justice, and post-distress emergence.
In the winter of 2012/13, the Haus der Kunst in Munich – one of Europe’s most important museums for contemporary art – hosted the exhibition ECM – A Cultural Archaeology. The goal of curators Okwui Enwezor and Markus Müller was to show the range of the label’s artistic endeavours in music, graphic art, and photography and its creative interchanges with film, theatre and literature. For this exhibition, Manfred Eicher and Steve Lake created this box-set accentuating directions in ECM's rich musical history. Many themes and streams are touched upon here including the range of composition in the New Series, music for and from films, imaginative historical reconstructions, trans-cultural music, ambient minimalism, and jazz and improvisation of many hues, in a collection with a playing time of more than seven hours.