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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Arve Henriksen - Touch of Time (ECM, 2024)

By Don Phipps

Approximating the intimacy of Paul Bley’s classic Open to Love, Touch of Time, an album crafted by Norwegian Arve Henriksen (trumpet and electronics) and Dutch Harmen Fraanje (piano), offers up contemplative and pensive music that provides an inner peace for our deeply troubling time. Henriksen’s floating trumpet lines have a luminescent, shimmering quality. They float along the airy contours of Fraanje’s piano lines, while Fraanje at times plays Chopinesque splashes that add color and context to the gentle phrases.

The album opens with “Melancholia,” where the music gives off a sense of foreboding – a view of a cold unforgiving ocean on a gray misty day. There is the dark sadness implied by the drawling lines of “Redream” – like driving through one of many abandoned boarded up downtowns that dot the Great Plains and wondering how or why - and the almost pleading and yearning in the development of “The Dark Light.” And too, like an ocean before a storm, “Mirror Images” uses dark piano chords and sustained trumpet notes to create an unsettling beauty.

Not all of the poetry on this album is tinged with sorrow. Take the intimate candlelight implied by “The Beauty of Sundays” or the pastoral orange red sunset suggested by “What All This Is.” On “Touch of Time,” Henriksen’s flute-like trumpet sounds linger over Fraanje’s Debussy-inspired lines, as if one is gazing from rock ledges out to a vast sea below.

Fraanje sometimes plays inside the piano, striking the strings to create crevice-like effects. At other times, he whispers with his pedaled pianissimo. On “Red and Black, he uses abstract left-hand Messiaen-like phrasing while his right hand explores the keyboard with a series of light pedaled splashes.

Is this music about lonely strolls down abandoned windswept streets? Is it about laying underneath stars and looking up at the vastness of space? Or is it gentle introspection, the gift of two artists and their collaboration? It’s up to you to find out.