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Øystein Sevåg's Hearts of Space premiere extends his fusion of Jazz, Ambient and World music into the Classical dimension. For almost ten years Norwegian composer Oystein Sevag has been building a personal style with a memorable series of beautifully crafted albums, including Visual, with Lakki Patey, Close Your Eyes and See, Link, and Global House.
Bridge is the latest statement of this ongoing evolution, and his first for Hearts of Space after three acclaimed records at Windham Hill.
His new direction is more classical and acoustic, extending but retaining the basic fusion concept of jazz, ambient, and ethnic elements on which he has built his career.
For the first time, Sevag worked with a 50 piece string orchestra (the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, conducted by Terje Mikkelsen), a string quartet (on "White Wings") and the extraordinary violin and viola playing of his wife, German-born MARIA SEVAG.
As a result of this classical integration, the music is more richly nuanced and expressive than ever. His recorded sound, always possessed of the strength, clarity, and intensity of mood that is the hallmark of Norwegian music, has matured in the digital era. Every note, overtone and modulation has been scrutinized, evaluated and burnished to its maximum effect. As he says: "simple, clear, silent."
In his notes Sevag confesses that it's not so easy to join these diverse influences and musical directions in to something coherent, but one listen to the effortless flow and ever changing texture of elements from jazz, rock, classical and world music and you will find that Bridge succeeds gloriously on its own terms.
"Seed," for example, sounds like nothing else, with an elastic bass groove supporting edgy overtone singing and ecstatic electric guitar and piano solos. "Spiral" packs a world of expression into just over a minute as Sevag's luminous piano descends to introduce the string orchestra. "Circle" and "Hanging Gardens" continue the fall with a gorgeous flow and rich melodic conversation between the saxophones, piano, violin and orchestra, then settles into a jazzy groove and finally winds up in new territory somewhere between jazz and chamber music. "Chorale" begins with a lyrical orchestra passage, then turns with a bang into funk bass, drums, and a choir of ethnic chanters supporting a remarkable overtone performance by SONIA LOINSWORTH. Saxophones, piano, and string orchestra complete this anthem-like piece.
"Pulse" is an innovative smooth jazz/NAC track, with the basic Latin groove accommodating a rhythmic Australian didgeridoo break in the middle over an electronic texture. Here Sevag pushes a genre style to its limits and makes it his own. "The Hermit's Horse" begins with a formal dance between the piano and viola, then deepens dramatically as the drums and orchestra move inexorably toward an elegant darkness. "White Wings" features an original melody that sounds as Celtic in inflection and emotion as the famous "Londonderry Air," played with great poignancy by the String Quartet and voice recorder. (We chose this track for the fourth compilation of our successful Celtic Twilight series, Celtic Planet.) "Cobalt," an open improvisation between Oystein on synthesizer and Maria on violin, achieves a level of exalted emotion reserved for classical favorites like Vaughan-Williams "A Lark Ascending." Sevag likens the color cobalt to the quest of the spirit for the deepest and most sublime experiences. This piece delivers put it on your short list of desert island tracks. "Annual Rings" for string orchestra completes the journey with a wistful yet emotionally ambiguous return to the themes of all previous pieces, leaving both a sense of completion and longing for realms as yet undiscovered.
In his notes, Sevag says he had some reservations about making a record while in a state of musical transition. In the end we can all be grateful that he invited us to join him. Bridge is heartfelt music and rewarding listening from the first note to the last.
Øystein Sevåg's Hearts of Space premiere extends his fusion of Jazz, Ambient and World music into the Classical dimension. For almost ten years Norwegian composer Oystein Sevag has been building a personal style with a memorable series of beautifully crafted albums, including Visual, with Lakki Patey, Close Your Eyes and See, Link, and Global House.A classical pianist and flute player by training, he discovered a talent for electronic keyboards and contemporary production. While others joined bands and orchestras, Sevag patiently built himself a studio on the Oslo Fjord coast, 50 miles south of Oslo, where he spent several years inventing a language of sounds and instruments to realize his musical vision.