CD REVIEW: Trygve Seim Rumi Songs



Trygve Seim Rumi Songs
(ECM 2449 473 2253. CD Review by Peter Jones)


Rumi was a 13th Century sufi mystic who wrote more than 40,000 verses in his native Persian. Now Norwegian saxophonist Trygve Seim has set ten of these to music, using what might appear to be a sparse instrumental line-up of accordion, cello and tenor or soprano saxophones, above which sails the pure, soft, melodious voice of Tora Augestad.

Rumi Songs is a longstanding project of Seim’s. It started out back in 2003, when he was given a book of Rumi’s poems translated into English. When he came to London as a member of the Oslo Jazz Band a year ago, his interest in and knowledge of non-European scales was obvious: at one point he played a curved Eb sopranino saxophone, bending the notes to make it sound like an Indian flute. That’s not always what he’s doing here: many of the tunes, particularly Leaving My Self, are indeed ‘eastern’ in feel; others inhabit the field of obscure European folk-song that the magnificent Alice Zawadski has been exploring in recent years. And anyone who has heard Turkish-influenced guitarist Nicolas Meier will know how beautiful and uplifting this kind of cross-genre music can be.

Most of the arrangements are slow and meditative, but occasionally they settle into a more rhythmic groove, as on When I See Your Face, in which Svante Henryson’s cello and Frode Haltli’s accordion set up a sort of march, interspersed with sinuous phrases from Seim’s horn. Tora Augestad is the most wonderful singer, able to sing quarter tones and make it sound easy. More typical is the stately Like Every Other Day, with long-drawn-out chords and floaty, winding melodies.

Rumi Songs is a thing of great beauty. The detailed and informative booklet that comes with it also contains all the lyrics, so you can sing along if you dare: Seawater begs the pearl / to break its shell… At night I open the window / and ask the moon to come /and press its face against mine… (There Is Some Kiss We Want). Gorgeous.

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