The history of Norwegian jazz would hardly have been the same without Jon Balke. Not only did he begin his musical life as an accomplice of Radka Toneff and Arild Andersen, the kingdom’s most famous jazz vocalist and bassist. Also Masqualero, The Magnetic North Orchestra and Jøkleba – three, in different ways, highly significant ensembles – are molded by the pianist’s finely tuned artistic flair.
However, Balke’s probably most outstanding project is Siwan. It’s an equally timeless as mysterious work of art, inspired by the poetry of Al-Andalus, also known as the medieval Muslim Spain. Siwan came to life in 2007 as a commissioned work for Cosmopolite Scene, later recorded and released on ECM, and now blessed – on the occasion of the 10th anniversary – with its second incarnation as a studio album.
Siwan’s momentum is not only due due to the Arabic singing or the baroque arrangements, but also the spirituality that permeates the music. Along the Mediterranean coast siwan is associated with the number three, which in this case points to the – compared to our polarized era – surprisingly peaceful trinity between Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Al-Andalus.
Although Siwan’s crew is constantly revolving – it’s difficult to fit together the almanacs of 16 people – you will always be able to hear this al-Andalusian cooperativeness in the music. Jon Balke’s Siwan is proof that music has the power to unite people across both time and place.
Text: Kim Klev