Anders Jormin / Lena Willemark / Karin Nakagawa Trees Of Light - ECM 2406


A vitally important figure in Swedish folk music, Lena Willemark has also been influenced by jazz and improvisation. She has made interesting observations about the relative densities of folk and improvised forms. Folk music, especially European dance forms and fiddle tunes, tends to be very dense, and note-packed. One of Willemark’s goals as an improviser is to let more air and light into the material, and this is splendidly realised in the trio here. Nakagawa’s approach to the koto, her dramatic use of light and shade, seems also to drive space into the music, her resonant notes creating a clearing in which both Willemark’s voice and Jormin’s bass can move.

Karin Nakagawa is today considered one of the leading exponents of the 25-string koto which she studied with innovative master musician Keiko Nosaka from the age of 12. Her improvisational versatility is well-known and she has collaborated with musicians across the genres, from contemporary music to traditional, as well as diverse transcultural projects. In Japan she is also known as a theatre actor and painter.

Anders Jormin’s sensitivity to music from sources beyond conventional definitions of jazz has long been apparent in repertoire choices made for the Bobo Stenson Trio for more than 20 years. On ECM the bassist has also been heard with Don Cherry, Charles Lloyd, Tomasz Stanko, Sinikka Langeland, Mark Feldman and Jon Balke. As a leader he has been heard on Xieyi (solo with brass quartet, recorded 1999), In winds, in light (song cycle, 2003), and Ad Lucem, (2011, settings of Jormin’s own Latin poetry). On Trees of Light he and Lena Willemark draw melodic inspiration from proximity to Karin Nakagawa’s soundworld, and the reverse is also true. Anders Jormin: “The music on this recording is the result of a long and exciting process, filled with curiosity and respect for each other’s knowledge.”

Lena Willemark’s previous ECM recordings as a leader/co-leader are Nordan (recorded 1993), Agram (1996), and Frifot (1998). Trees of Light is Karin Nakagawa’s ECM debut.