Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Faroe Islands roots and modern jazz from Yggdrasil

Kristian Blak & Yggdrasil
Tutl (

Danish pianist-composer-producer Kristian Blak has been integral to propagating and promoting music made in the Faroes Islands since founding Yggdrasil in 1980. The Norse "World Tree" of destiny, Yggdrasil is a powerful mythological ash whose three roots reach into the underworld, devoured by serpents even as the tree reaches for heaven, while at its pinnacle sits a watchful eagle. Yggdrasil brings a contemporary jazz-classical-rock sensibility to an original repertoire inspired by traditional island dances, ballads, children's rhymes, chants, hymns, and poetry. Guitarist-singer-composer Kári Sverrisson, a startling vocalist, shares writing duties with Blak, a nimble pianist, on Risastova ("Giant's House," the name of an imposing Faroe Islands rock formation). Rounding out the octet are saxophones, violin, cello, electric guitar, bass, drums, and percussion. The music is as craggy, windswept, overcast, brooding, remote, and unforgiving as the Faroes of its origin. The closing piece, "Vágatunnilin," a moody Blak suite in five parts, was initially performed at 100 meters below sea level, to commemorate the opening of the first underwater tunnel in the Faroes, plumbing the roots of Yggdrasil itself. - Michael Stone

CD available from cdRoots