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November 1997

Lena Willemark and Ale Moller
Agram
ECM Records

At the risk of nurturing a stereotype, the latest album from Swedish musicians Lena Willemark and Ale Moller makes a perfect pact with the ECM aesthetic, although from more of a folk perspective than as something related to jazz or new classical music. What we hear on this contemplative follow-up to the 1994 album Nordan, is clearly a Northern European music, but with cultural arms outstretched. Swedish traditions, sometimes ancient, interlock with other aspects of global music, including improvisation that refers obliquely to American modal jazz. Arranger for much of the music, Moller also plays a number of instruments, including mandola, wooden trumpet and hammered dulcimer, while Willemark sings with a depth and lucid grace and adds fiddle and viola parts to the "string section," highlighted by Mats Eden's haunting drone-fiddle. Jonas Knutsson's saxophone turns echo Jan Garbarek's approach and frequent ECM collaborator, bassist Palle Danielsson, adds his own link to the jazz-folk attitude underscoring the project. This is world music with a solid home base, but a flexible worldview.

Originally published in November 1997
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