FolkWorld Issue 39 07/2009; Article by Morten Alfred Høirup (Translation by Rod Sinclair)


På Dansk

Unmistakably Nordic
Trio Mio – Three Different Musicians in a Unique Combination

A look at the Danish folk music scene is all it takes: you will find a wide variety of subspecies. Folk musicians throughout the country specialise in many different types of folk music, so, though it’s a small country, an unusually broad selection of musical styles is represented.

Some musicians, for instance, travel round with bands designed specifically to play concert series in Danish schools, others are so knowledgeable about the many musical traditions in Denmark
Trio Mio
Trio Mio @ FolkWorld: FW #30, #32

Icon Sound Dronning Marianne og Kong Oscar,
        Fars 60-års Polska, Kolle Polle

Icon Movie @
that they can provide wedding guests or harvest parties in any given region with precisely the right drinking song or dance tune. And of course there are a good many bands that are specialists in playing the clubs and little venues round the country and abroad, and are thus active in spreading the word about Danish music and culture.

The Danish-Swedish group Trio Mio falls into the latter category. The trio began in 2004 when violinist Kristine Heebøll recorded her first solo album – the album title simply became the band name. Trio Mio play mainly their own compositions, giving a Scandinavian sound to their traditional Danish and Swedish, and jazz and classical inspired music.

Five years on, the three musicians can look back on three critically-praised albums featuring an imposing list of Danish and Swedish guest musicians, six Danish Music Award statuettes and a long series of concerts in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Italy, England, Ireland and Canada.

”It is a joy to listen to the tightly-woven interplay and the lively energy in this wonderfully varied collection of powerful and beautiful tunes” – fRoots, UK

The musicians in Trio Mio are the Danish violinist Kristine Heebøll, pianist and accordionist Nikolaj Busk, also from Denmark, and the Swedish guitarist, bouzouki player and singer, Jens Ulvsand. The three have such widely differing backgrounds that it must be considered a stroke of good fortune that they found each other at all.

Previously, Heebøll has played traditional music and with the Danish band Phoenix, and still plays on occasion with the girl band Folkbits. Busk has played jazz and folk/pop, has sidelines with the duo Hal & Nikolaj, and with singer Laura Mo. Jens Ulvsand has years of experience on the Swedish folk music scene, and combines his work with Trio Mio, with membership of Swedish Avadå Band, Danish Færd and Scandinavian String Alliance.

Trio Mio and the Tradition

Trio Mio differ from most other bands on the Danish and international folk music scene in that they have a recognisably Scandinavian sound but centre their music on their own compositions. Most other comparable bands base their music on traditional tunes and songs. It is an interesting observation that a band’s sound can be strongly influenced by traditional music, indeed the music and culture of one particular part of the country, yet still work exclusively with newly composed music.

”I became a musician because I liked rock n’ roll. To be honest, at 25 I thought folk music was pretty corny, but that changed.” – Jens Ulvsand, musiker

Trio Mio When I phone to the three musicians during the Danish and Swedish winter break to ask about their attitudes to traditional music, I catch them in three very different situations. Kristine Heebøll is visiting her mother-in-law in Jutland with her year-old daughter. Nikolaj is out walking in the sun somewhere near Copenhagen, and Jens Ulvsand is on his back on a sofa in a mountain hut at a ski resort in northern Sweden, nursing a painful strain while his wife and children and friends ski the snow-clad slopes outside. In short, all three have time to talk.

”The tradition is not really a big part of my musical consciousness,” says Nikolaj Busk and goes on: ”For me, it is enough to be aware of the style we are playing as long as I feel I can contribute something personal within an understanding of the music. I love all good music, jazz, electronic, classical, rock – and I love traditional music. I lean on various sources when I’m composing. The music I compose reflects what I am listening to at any given moment. It’s a periodic thing.”

Trio Mio Jens Ulvsand has a slightly different view of the tradition, for though he did not grow up with it, he has a clear attitude to traditional music:”If, for example, I’m composing a waltz, it is important to me that people can actually dance a waltz to my tune. And the same goes for other types of dance tune. I play a lot of traditional music too, so it means a great deal to me, even though I did not pick up the music from my own family members. On the contrary, I began playing music because I liked rock n’ roll. When I was 25, I thought folk music sounded pretty corny, but that changed.”

Kristine Heebøll has roots in traditional music, and, as she puts it:”I grew up with the tradition in my backpack, so to speak, so it is always with me to some extent. I don’t necessarily think tradition when I’m composing, but it tends to define the tune structures and their contexts – whether they come out as a waltz, a polska, a march or something completely different. In recent years I have been composing quite different stuff, more soundscapes and atmospherics, experiments that seem to rub off on everything else I do.”

Trio Mio and the Future

All together, the members of Trio Mio have composed enough material for several albums, and they plan to continue working together – their fourth effort will be appearing in the course of the next year or so. The winter of 2008 - 2009 has been quiet while Kristine has been busy with her little daughter, and Jens and Nikolaj have been composing and playing with their other bands. Now that spring is here, we can expect to hear Trio Mio and their unique blend in concert round the world. The Trio will perform at folkBALTICA in Flensburg in April, and they will be appearing on stages and at festivals in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Italy.
Morten Alfred Hoirup
Morten Alfred Høirup (*1961) is a Danish musician, composer and music journalist. He has been playing the guitar and singing in the Danish duo Haugaard & Høirup, and is currently working freelance for Danish Roots.,

Trio Mio dazzle with delicacy instead of swamping with swagger....The Trio freely blends jazz and folkloric styles in intriguing ways. Trio Mio seems to revel in misdirection.... (their) music is sleepy and precise...infused with primal energy...or rockets between jazz precission and folkloric rawness. – Sing Out! Magazine, U.S.A

Photo Credits: (1)-(3) Trio Mio (from website); (4) Morten Alfred Høirup (by The Mollis).

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