Review by Brad Walseth
Norwegian accordionist, Frode Haltli has taken music based on traditional folk music and used these songs to inspire his own flights of fancy. Joined here by trumpeter Arve Henrickson, Scottish violist Garth Knox and vocalist Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje, these compositions blur between the improvised and the arranged into a ghostly landscape of passing images.
Haltli has been interested in combining folk music sources with improvisations throughout his career. His associates on this recording are very much in tune with what Haltli is endeavoring to accomplish. Henrickson's sound sometimes is unrecognizable as a trumpet, sounding at times more like a flute or unknown horn. Knox's viola, a darker lower timbre of course than the violin, adds the wooden element that speaks of pine tree forests. Meanwhile Ratkje's vocals move from being as airy as the wind on "The Letter," to unusual sounds, clicks, squeals and eerie whisperings on "Inter" and "Lude" as though witches or trolls were afoot.
According to Haltli's album notes, "Psalm" is based on a traditional hymn from the western fjord area, while "Vandring" is based on a Roma song (also the melody of the American traditional "Wayfaring Stranger"). "Pre," "Lyrisk vals" and "Passing Images" were inspired by waltzing fiddle music, while "Jag haver ingen kärare" is based on a traditional Swedish folk tune. Here, as on "The Letter," the source music can be somewhat discerned, while the blurring effect occurs more so on some of the other pieces.
"Vals" (waltz) ends this album beautifully, with Ratjke's floating vocals wistful above Haltli's drone-like accordion chords and Knox's lyrical viola and Henrickson's subdued and breathy trumpet. The effect is one of an atmosphere where the timeless combines with the personal in momentary vision of peace.
The Frode Haltli Quartet Featuring Maja Ratkje appear at the Chicago Cultural Center Sunday November 11, 5pm