Arve Henriksen, Harmen Fraanje: Touch Of Time

Norwegian trumpeter and Dutch pianist wander through breathy, impressionistic duets with a little electronic colouring

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Henriksen (t, elec) and Fraanje (p) are two of the most lyrically oriented players in contemporary jazz. The Norwegian brass and electronics man’s extensive and distinctive discography includes such memorable items as Chiaroscuro, Cartography and The Timeless Nowhere. I reviewed the last and remarked Henriksen’s extraordinary command of plaintive, often flute-like tone and breathy interval, hovering overtone and painterly texture.

Henriksen’s distilled, yearning figures are here complemented perfectly by the spare and rhythmically subtle cast of Fraanje’s impressionist pianism: sample Melancholia, Red And Black and Passing On The Past. Born in 1976, the Dutchman’s work had escaped my attention until I heard him on bassist Mats Eilertsen’s ECM Rubicon of 2015 – a splendid, mythically inflected septet date complemented in 2018 by Eilertsen’s very different but equally striking And Then Comes The Night trio session with Fraanje and Norwegian drummer Thomas Strøne, again on ECM. 

At just under 40 minutes in total, the 10 intimate and exquisitely pitched duo meditations that are Touch Of Time induce sustained reflection upon what is perhaps the most impenetrable mystery of our lives: not so much time itself, but rather, our experience or understanding of it. Both the title and the music of Touch Of Time suggest no single answer to that mystery, rather the sort of open imagistic quest which Rainer Maria Rilke undertook in his quest to affirm “life and death as one” in his Duino Elegies of 1912-22 (see especially the 1978 Norton translation by David Young).

A touch more comparison and cross-genre analogy: think of the Bill Evans and Miles Davis jewel of the gently sprung meditation that is Blue In Green, from the 1959 masterpiece Kind Of Blue – and then imagine that jewel re-cut into smaller but no less charged pieces, as rippling as they are refractive, of rubato melody and innermost mood. Here is quietly superb music, of no small liminal import.

Discography
Melancholia; The Beauty Of Sundays; Redream; The Dark Light; What All This Is; Mirror Images; Touch Of Time; Winter Haze; Red And Black; Passing On The Past (38.18)
Henriksen (t, elec); Fraanje (p). Lugano, January 2023.
ECM 587 0512