Tone Of Voice Orchestra: Tone Of Voice Orchestra

Danish tentet sporting bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy and cittern as well as saxophone plays a mixture of folk, jazz and blues


I can’t characterise this music any better than the accompanying press release: “Take four vibrant singers, add unconventional instrumentation, including fiddle, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, cittern, saxophones, flutes, two drummers and double bass, plus a genre-fluid approach to songwriting and you have the ebullient 10-piece Tone of Voice Orchestra.”

TOVO is the brain-child of Danish saxophonist Fredrik Lundin (who seems to be appearing in many an interesting project these days) and his compatriot, vocalist Trinelise Vaering. Following early exploratory discussions in 2017, they put together a hand-picked ensemble (five women, five men) from very different parts of the Scandinavian scene.

The wide-ranging result is pitched somewhere between folk and jazz, ancient tropes and contemporary culture and is delivered by superb musicianship all round. We are treated to bright, breezy sexual celebration (He Loves Her For It) and the testifying of forthright, blues-charged lament (Heartless); questing ostinato pulses (Typecast, That Kind Of Day) and near-shamanic invocation (Barking Up The Wrong Tree and the surpassing Kom Hjem Til Mig, both of which can bring to mind the potency of Sami singer Mari Boine).

The dynamics of the music are especially captivating, including some lovely moments of quietude and intimacy, epitomised by the openings of Driven and I’m Gonna Let It Go. The former evolves into a soaring group vocal, underpinned by group clapping, prelude to one of the many purposive solos from Lundin – hear him also on That Kind Of Day – while Let It Go maintains its stilled and hypnotic aura to the last.

Throughout the album – which is beautifully packaged, with the lyrics (all of which are in English, apart from Kom Hjem) included in the 16-page inner booklet – there is a deft interplay of matters rubato and rhythmic, modal and harmonic, major and minor, which works as seamlessly as the variegated blends of voice and instrument, solo and group figures. A terrific release.

He Loves Her For It; Barking Up The Wrong Tree; Heartless; You Saw Yourself Out; Lovey-Dovey; Typecast; Driven; I’m Gonna Let It Go; That Kind Of Day; Kom Hjem Til Mig (Come Home To Me) (45.14)
Anja Rybacka, Mario Kynne, Tine Refsgaard, Trinelise Vaering (v); Christian Mohr Levisen (hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, cittern); Emma Krogh-Elmøe (vn); Fredrik Lundin (s, f); Joel Illerhag (b); Jesper Uno Kofoed, Anders Provis (d, pc). Copenhagen, November 2020 & March 2021.
Stunt Records STUCD 22012