Jazz collective the Source hook up with ECM regulars the Cikada String Quartet. Third...
Peter Marsh 2002
Since the heady days of Gunther Schuller's Third Stream experiments, many have tried putting jazz and classical musicians together in a darkened room in the hope of magical fusions. The usual result has been compromised blandness, but The Source and Different Cikadas is exquisite proof that such collaborations can be made in heaven (or at least in Oslo).
The Source are a composing/improvised collective sort of led by saxophonist Trygve Seim, trombonist Øyvind Brække and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen, who provide all the original compositions here. They're joined by satellite members bassist Finn Guttormsen and the wonderful trumpeter Arve Henriksen, plus guests Christian Wallumrod on piano and accordionist Frode Haltli.
The 'different Cikadas' alluded to are the Cikada string quartet; ECM regulars and collaborators with Arild Andersen and Annette Peacock. With a background in new music, the Cikadas are naturally seasoned improvisers, while the Source's composers declare interest in the methods of John Cage, Stockhausen and Xenakis, so there's a definite middle ground waiting to be shared.
As you may have guessed by now, this isn't exactly dinner jazz, but neither is it a dry, difficult academic exercise. The writing is vibrant, witty and often beautiful. Throughout the cast of players shifts, giving each piece a distinctive character.
While pieces like the opening "Organismus Vitalis" unite horns and strings in a sweet chunk of graceful minimalism, others rub genres together to create delicious frictions. The Ligeti plays bop moves of "Fort Jazz" jumpcut between fractured bop lines and delirious pointillistic strings in a way that's ironic but not knowing; this isn't just musical in-joking.
Elsewhere, Henriksen's plaintive trumpet leads Johansen's swooningly lovely "Mmball", or Seim's keening, duduk like soprano floats over glassy, slow moving strings worthy of Arvo Part ("Bhavana"). The harmolodic rough n' tumble of "Uten Forbindelse" leaves the strings behind for cut and thrust avant bebop, with Seim whipping out his claraphone (a tenor sax with bass clarinet mouthpiece). Brække's compositions "Saltpastill" and "Sen Kjellertango" are more formalised slices of jazz writing (the latter a nod to the off kilter tango of Astor Piazzola).
But these guys can make it up as they go along just as well as they can write it down; the two free improvisations are stuffed with ideas yet marked by a restraint and a sense of space rarely found in jazz (except maybe on other ECM records). The closing "Tutti Free" finds the whole 11 piece slowly expanding and contracting as one with a sensitivity and power that's almost unfathomable. Beautiful.