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



Anders Jormin’s new Swedish-Japanese project returns the highly distinctive voice of Lena Willemark to ECM – it’s her first appearance on the label in more than a decade - and introduces koto player Karin Nakagawa. In this trio music the Japanese classical tradition and the stark, archaic sounds of the koto, allied to Jormin’s powerful and subtle bass playing, form a unique context for Lena’s sung poems, delivered in her native Älvdals-dialect. Traditions and non-idiomatic improvising are cross-referenced and new paths opened up in these compositions.

The collaboration between Anders Jormin and Lena Willemark has strengthened since the recording of the song cycle In winds, in light in 2003, and bassist and singer have worked together regularly. In 2013 Lena was also featured as singer in Anders’s oratorio Between Always And Never, premiered with the Jönköping Sinfonietta and Chamber Choir.

A shared wish to take the music into “unexplored regions” prompted Jormin to write to Karin Nakagawa, the koto virtuoso he had seen in concert years before, and propose a new trio: “Both Lena and I felt this would be a challenging project with exciting and unpredictable potential.” Nakagawa’s enthusiastic response set the first challenge: “From here on, the history became about me learning the functions and possibilities of composing for koto. Lena wrote a series of poems that I set to music, and then we had Karin fly over from Japan to meet us for a first week of playing together.”

Karin initiated Anders and Lena into some of the mysteries of the thousand-year-old koto tradition. Lena, in turn, taught Karin how to play Swedish polska, and Anders posited the trio’s conceptual parameters, the improvisational and compositional dimensions which the group would balance.


They gave concerts in Sweden and Japan and worked on the music for almost two years before recording the present album at Studio Epidemin in Göteborg. The music now consists of compositions from all three players, based largely upon Willemark’s poems. One of those poems, “Lyöstraini” (Trees of Light) gave the players a name for their project as well as an album title.