[ECM, www.ecmrecords.com]

As everyone knows by now, ECM boss Manfred Eicher has been infatuated with Scandinavian music for eternity. A large chunk of ECM releases in fact feature either exclusively Scandinavian musicians in leading roles or at the very least in supporting ones.

Though Dino Saluzzi is not from Scandinavia [he's in fact from Argentina], his counterpart on "Senderos" - Jon Christensen - is certainly Scandinavian through and through. [In fact, some call him ECM's house drummer as he appeared on some many sessions that people stopped counting long time ago.] I remember falling in love with Dino's bandoneon through Tomasz Stanko's "From the Green Hill" record from the late 90's. The gorgeous, delicate imagery that it brought to life was other worldly. I could listen just to his solos alone for hours on end. "Senderos" brings back similar evocative and mesmerizing images. It's almost as if I were sitting in an abandoned café in the middle of some deserted cobblestone street, waiting for the waiter who doesn't really exist to show up with my espresso. Loneliness of the human condition is what I hear in Dino's music. Jon Christensen flavours these lonely sounds with delicate brush strokes, with very appropriate colours that don't detract from the leader's mesmerizing storyline. What strikes me as rather fascinating about Dino's work is how melodic and dance-like it is. It retains these qualities throughout the whole record, making it perhaps just a little bit less sad. The loneliness of a person removed from their homeland. The loneliness of being with someone. "Senderos" is that sad soundtrack to the loneliness of your own life.

One thing those Scandinavians do so well is mix their jazz music with classical music. Christian Wallumrod Ensemble's "A Year From Easter" signifies yet another release where the lines between the classical and jazz idioms have all but disappeared. Heavily composed, these pieces are strictly regimented and don't really give ensemble members too much room to maneuver at will. Ensemble's leader, pianist Christian Wallumrod makes great use of the toy piano. Listen to his clunky performance on "Arch Song", as his instrument sets the pace for the remainder of the band. The glaring, high-pitched harmonium and violin sounds produced in "Lichtblick" are amazingly intense. Otherwise, this album is quite calm and [dare I say] even romantically flavoured. The themes are rather wispy but varied, while the pace of delivery is slow to moderate. The music is very stark in its nature. Even when the trumpet is featured, it sounds as if the inclusion of the instrument is barely there to add some colouring, as an afterthought. Who cares what category you throw Christian Wallumrod's release in - jazz, classical, contemporary or just new music. What's more significant is that by sheer tenacity [and through financing from ECM] this music is allowed to see the light of day.

- Tom Sekowski

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