Lena Ullman and Ivor Ottley - ‘Skating Across the Baltic’
Collaborations are like conversations. Some end up being more than the sum of their parts and climb higher and higher to places where neither participant intended going, but feel all the better for having ended up there. It’s like a climb. Should we go any further? Go on then, up we go.
It’s not really a collaboration, I think, unless it elicits some sort of change in either one of the musicians. It’s a meeting of minds. It has to convene somewhere else. Somewhere new.
I guess that’s essentially how they come about. One musician knows the work of the other and has an inclination that they might be able to prompt something new in their style which could lead to something new happening between them. Then that same excitement could be the spark for further explorations in pastures new. Life is just a dance.
It takes others to show us the way and the steps sometimes.
It certainly feels like that with Lena Ullmann and Ivor Ottley’s sublime Skating Across The Baltic. Even with the title there’s a feeling of some sort of journey that could never be taken alone.
The warm tonal agreement between the instruments is an exercise in togetherness. There’s a range of moods but still everything fits. The manner in which Lena whispers her way gently into the mix is characteristic of a tenderness that defines this rare delight of a record.
I love the way Lena discovered her love of the banjo. Pure chance. As a 14-year-old from Stockholm, she was visiting her sister in London who was staying with renowned banjo player Tom Paley. Through him she heard Peggy Seeger play and her head was turned for good.
The West of Ireland is now her home and the traces of her many encounters with different folk styles make her playing remarkably hard to define.
The downside of amazing conversations is they get lost I the ether.
Musical collaborations leave important traces in the thin air.