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With five previous ECM albums as leader, keyboard player Christian Wallumrød's compositional signature is instantly recognizable. Nobody else writes pieces like this - multi-dimensional chamber music inspired by the sonorities of Norwegian folk and church music, influenced by early music and the post-Cage avant-garde, and liberated by jazz's freedom of thought. This time around, his ensemble members share the arranging credits between them, making the music still more organic and flexible as new sound combinations emerge.

"The immense sonic resources of these players seem to keep on growing" noted The Guardian of their last release, Fabula Suite Lugano, and the sextet of Christian Wallumrød continues to evolve in its own idiosyncratic way on Outstairs. Like Fabula Suite Lugano, this album was produced by Manfed Eicher and recorded at the Auditorio RSI in Lugano, Switzerland. The studio's naturally clear acoustic sound also contributes to the musical outcome: in Wallumrød's music, often built of small gestures rather than dramatic flourishes, acute listening is of paramount importance.

There are some changes in the line-up: Espen Reinertsen comes in on tenor saxophone, and Tove Törngren is the band's new cellist. Reinertsen and CWE trumpeter Eivind Lønning have much experience together playing free improvised music. Their shared feeling for timbre, texture and extended instrumental technique is well-utilized by Wallumrød - as is the resourcefulness of Swedish cellist Tove Törngren, who works regularly in contexts from chamber music to pop to improvisation.

Gjermund Larsen, who joined the ensemble in time for the first sextet recording The Zoo Is Far, has a sound informed by a profound knowledge of Norwegian folk music. The yearning tone of his Hardanger fiddle has become one of the characteristic sounds of the group. Wallumrød and Per Oddvar Johansen have been collaborating for more than 20 years, and the drummer has a highly-developed sense for shading and detailing the inner architecture of Wallumrød's compositions.

Personnel: Christian Wallumrød (piano, harmonium, toy piano), Eivind Lønning (trumpet), Gjermund Larsen (violin, hardanger fiddle, viola), Espen Reinertsen (tenor saxophone), Tove Törngren (cello), Per Oddvar Johansen (drums, vibraphone)


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