Trygve Seim has always looked to the east in many ways. From the nineties to Edward Vesala’s Finland through his collaboration with Edward and all the musicians around him, later as far as Rumi’s old Persia, or to the Indian, Armenian and Arab music heritage, but sometimes no more than Finnskogen through his collaboration with Sinikka Langeland. With the band Helsinki Songs, Seim is somewhere in the middle. Most of the songs of Helsinki Songs (including the title song Helsinki Song) were composed during Seim’s many writing stays in the Finnish composers’ association’s Helsinki apartment. In addition, the addresses of the Quartet members form a geographical axis with Helsinki as a centerpiece, and Seim has been playing with a number of Finnish musicians for over 20 years – it began with Edward Vesala in 1996, and after his passing a few years later Vesala’s former fellow musician and wife, Iro Haarla, collaborated with Seim, and in addition Seim has played with many other Finnish musicians, including Samuli Mikkonen and Markku Ounaskari.
With its overt lyricism, strong themes and a sense of perpetual melodic invention, Norwegian saxophonist Trygve Seim’s new album quickly identifies itself as a classic-in-the-making. Themes of dedication run through Seim’s Helsinki Songs album, a set of tunes composed – for the most part – in the Finnish capital, and radiating tributes in many directions. Here are songs referencing Igor Stravinsky and Jimmy Webb, pieces dedicated to each of Seim’s gifted bandmates, and tunes that tip the hat, obliquely, to Ornette Coleman and Bill Evans. The quartet plays superbly throughout, with outstanding solos from leader Seim and pianist Kristjan Randalu. Helsinki Songs was recorded in Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in January 2018 and produced by Manfred Eicher.
Trygve Seim – saxophones
Mats Eilertsen – doublebass
Kristjan Randalu – piano
Markku Ounaskari – drums
Seim studied Arab music in Cairo, and got aquainted with Rumi’s work when the late soprano Anne-Lise Berntsen commissioned music to some of his poems in the mid 2000s. Rumi Songs is a continuation of this work, now being commissioned and sung by the excellent vocalist Tora Augestad. Frode Haltli plays the accordion, Svante Henryson plays the cello – and Norwegian poet Erling Kittelsen will perform some of Rumi’s poems as a spoken-word reading. Rumi Songs is an unique collaboration between leading Norwegian performers in their homage to a poet whose legacy stretches over several centuries, many borders and countless lifeworks.
The Persian Sufi poet Jalaladin Rumi has had a great influence upon music, dance, poetry and philosophy in several countries. An active theologist, mystic and poet in the 13th century, Rumi left behind a large number of written material that has been a source of inspiration for mystics, musicians and other creative souls to this day. This is manifested once again when Norwegian composer Trygve Seim and his ensemble perform their Rumi Songs – a symbiosis of Rumi’s beautiful poetry and Scandinavian contemporary music.
Trygve Seim – composer, saxophones
Tora Augestad – vocal
Frode Haltli – accordion
Svante Henryson – cello
Colman Barks – resitation
Asle Karstad – sound design