This album started life when, in 2012, the Rikskonsertene invited Arve Henriksen to tour with strings. This went out under the moniker "Time Zones for Trumpet and Wood" with the same line up as finally appeared on the album. Apparently, Henriksen had asked ECM seven years ago ifthey would be interested in recording him with strings, so the concept had long been brewing.
Henriksen appears to be on a roll at the moment. This is his third release in twelve months alongside a very busy tour schedule with endless permutations of musicians. With "The Nature of Connections" he has as assembled a cast of folk and jazz players of the highest calibre.
A collaboration with four string players Nils Økland & Gjermund Larsen on Hardanger fiddle/violins, Svante Henryson cello, Mats Eilertsen on bass (with the addition of Audun Kleive on a only a few tracks) "The Nature of Connections" is a departure for Henriksen in many ways: he has asked all the string players to contribute their own pieces; there is no sign of the shakuhachi flute-like sound that we have come to associate with Henriksen’s sound world (instead he uses the natural brassy sound of the instrument and he adds piano in places).
The opening "Blå Veg", arranged by all, begins with a mysterious and almost baroque-like trumpet with a standard string quartet. The strings develop into something not unlike Bartok’s night music in the high register and indicate what a feast the listener can anticipate.
Larsen’s "Hambopolskavalsen" is perhaps one of the few pieces on the album that evoke the Hardanger tradition, although trumpet and strings in unison move into waters new.
Økland's "Budbringeren" inhabits a similar sound world, but as the piece progresses it is punctuated by pizzicato strings and arco bass. The warm sound of Henriksen’s trumpet then enters with strings bringing the piece to quiet close.
Henryson's "Seclusive Song" slowly opens and expands with pauses between muted trumpet and strings with a beautiful cello solo and sweet trumpet.
Fellow Supersilent member Ståle Storløkken contributes "Hymn" (the longest piece on the album), the only contribution from a musician that doesn’t appear on the album. It is a sea-sawing melody, carried along with a deep resonating solo from Eilertsen.
Eilertsen’s "Aceh" opens with trumpet sound that resembles the playing of Don Cherry. The cello then enters with delicate bowed pulsing strokes and arco bass. The piece closes with rhapsodic trumpet and mournful strings.
Henryson’s "Keen" opens with a chugging rhythm and delicate drum stokes and sawing strings. It then moves into a bluesy rift and returns to the main theme. It's a real earworm!
"Arco Acropolis" begins with a delicate intertwining of Hardanger fiddles followed by cello and bass. Trumpet and underlying piano manage to find a way in, until the fiddlers find their way back.
Eilertsen’s "Salm" brings us to a serene ending, a coda that underlines everything that has gone before.
A truly beautiful album.