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Eskil Romme

Those familiar with the band Himmerland, whose New Roots Music from Denmark disc has brought its musicians renown beyond the festival circuit, will want to explore this formative project from 2009 by Eskil Romme, for here we have its reflective heart. Each album is a celebration of international crosscurrents, thoroughly representing the band's Danish, Polish, and Ghanaian backgrounds. Despite the broader personnel of Himmerlandsmelodier (pianist Peter Rosendal and accordionist Karen Tweed make it a septet), the architecture couldn't be more open.

All the music here is composed by Romme, who otherwise lurks selectively throughout the album behind his soprano saxophone. The tunes take their inspiration from life in Romme's hometown of Halkær, a farming village located on Denmark's Jutland Peninsula. Halkær has, under his direction, become something of a folk music center and hosts an annual festival where he has crossed paths with many of the musicians featured here. Of those, fiddler Ditte Fromseier proves a defining element. Her lilting filigree in the introductory “Forårsfred/Spring Peace” sets a fertile tone that only grows more so as the disc goes on. From this dulcet theme, the band broadens its palette to include shades of chamber music, jazz, and jam aesthetics in “Hen I April/Around April.” Like so much of the album, it gives thanks for the fruits of hard work.

"Forårsfred/Spring Peace"

Guitarist Morten Alfred Høirup lends his distinct edge to tunes like the tender “Søndag I Mai/May Sunday” and, along with bassist Andrzej Krejniuk, the uplifting “Eftertænksom/Reflection,” which is something of a mission statement for the group. Percussionist Ayi Solomon lends further spice, anchoring with Krejniuk the mellifluous warmth of “Sidst I Januar Før Fodertid/Late January Feed” (the percussion here evokes clopping of hooves) and lending a reggae vibe to “Ingen Ved Hvoraf/No-One Knows From Where,” in which Romme dances across misted valleys.

Sidst I Januar Før Fodertid/Late January Feed"

The layout of the landscape is discernible throughout, and glows with a warm familiarity not unlike the hovels of Hobbiton. The ensemble works nobly through soft currents and hard times with comparable ease, reaching height of expression in the piano/saxophone duet “Engens Birketræer/Meadow Birches.” With reassuring touch, branches sprout their leaves, spanning continents with a rich, bluesy sound.

Himmerlandsmelodier is as optimistic as it is laid back. It consumes the gifts of the earth and offers this music in return. Not to be missed. - Tyran Grillo

CD available from cdRoots

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