Saxophonist Trygve Seim often comes across like he’s a classical musician holding a jazzman’s instrument. But when he’s around his friends in the Source collective, his more abstract chamber-music instincts give way to something akin to free-jazz balladry. Part of the reason, at least on The Source, is that trombonist Øyvind Brække supplies most of the tunes, and has a much jazzier sound than Seim (who wrote just one song). But together they share a love of wide-open harmonies and controlled spontaneity mixed with gorgeous minimalism.
The core of the Source formed in 1993 when Seim, Brække and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen joined forces while attending Trondheim Music Conservatory, which has turned out numerous great musicians. Bassist Mats Eilertsen, who has played with some the best musicians in Norway (Solveig Slettahjell, Thomas Strønen, etc.), rounds out the band for its second ECM CD (and third overall).
Such a collective would have had to play with broken arms and migraines to create anything less than interesting, but The Source is much better than that weak adjective: This CD is divine, and it’s the best Source yet.
Nine of the 13 tracks were written by Brække, including the surprisingly funky “Mail Me or Leave Me.” The two compositions by Johansen, “Tamboura Rasa” and “Mmball” (the latter reprised from 2000’s The Source and Different Cikadas), stand out for their simplicity and beauty. The Source also tackles Edward Vesala’s “Libanera,” recalling 1960s Ornette Coleman in its chordless interplay and group improvisation: free but controlled, abstract but not noisy, virtuosic but accessible. That, in a nutshell, is the Source.