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Kristine Heebøll featuring Timo Alakotila

Go' Danish Folk
Review by Chris Nickson

Named for pernambuco, the hardwood often used to make violin bows that was discovered by the Portuguese in Brazil, the duo album made by Danish fiddler Heebøll (Trio Mio) and Finnish pianist Alakotila had its genesis in a session three years ago at a music composition camp.

“We started jamming one night, first traditional tunes and tunes we both knew, but after a while I threw in one of my own tunes and what came out of Timo’s hands was just like a dream!” Heebøll recalls. “It was exactly the kind of accompaniment and music that had only existed in my head.”

That interplay and lyricism is evident from the very first notes of the opening cut, “Drivhuset” (video below). The flow from fiddle to piano and back again is seamless and utterly natural, almost telepathic, a dance as the instruments weave in and out and around each other.

It’s certainly not a single trick, but something they manage again and again, using Heebøll’s compositions (she was named Composer of the Year in 2019 at the Danish Folk Awards) as springboards to take flight. And she comes up with a seemingly endless series of delicious, airy melodies, like “Det Hvide Træ,” that give the pair fertile playgrounds for their musical imagination.

What they create is a garden of delights, but the icing on the cake is a couple of tracks that take a different turn, featuring the Danish trio Vesselil. In some ways, their tracks stand as an anomaly that interrupts the flow, even with the two principals playing, but they do show they extent of Heebøll’s writing talent.

“I wanted to do something with Vesselil from the first time I heard them,” she notes. “'Bryllupsmarch Til Mille Og Anders' was an old tune I’d wanted to record for a long time and the second piece was written with them in mind – and the beautiful story Rune created.”

“Nu,” with words by the late storyteller Rune T. Kidde is the album’s centrepiece, quite epic in scope. It’s spoken, sung, played, building then ebbing on a tide to create something that becomes bigger than the sum of its parts, a work that needs that extra instrumentation and textures to work.

It makes for a good climax, no doubt about it, but the cool-down closer, the traditional tune “Bryllupsmarcher Fra Himmerland,” serves an as soothing, ideal end, and a reminder of the easy, effortless communication that moves between Heebøll and Alakotila. The entire album is a delight. – Chris Nickson

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