Haltli began playing the accordion at age seven. While folk music was the first repertoire learned by the young musician, he branched out rather quickly to classical music and contemporary works by composers such as Pietr Fiala, Per Nørgård, and Arne Nordheim. He studied first at the Norwegian State Academy of Music, then at the Royal Danish Music Conservatory in Copenhagen. In 1999, he formed the contemporary trio Poing with saxophonist Rolf-Erik Nystrøm and double bassist Håkon Thelin. In addition to releasing six acclaimed albums, they have received more than 100 commissions from symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles as well as individual composers. In 2001, Haltli was named Young Soloist of the Year by the Norwegian Concert Institute.
The accordionist signed to ECM and released his debut album, Looking on Darkness, in 2002. It garnered rave reviews across Europe and the U.S. for Haltli's adventurous solo playing style in compositions by Bent Sørensen, Per Magnus Lindborg, Asbjørn Schaathun, Magnus Lindberg, and Maja Ratkje, whose "Gagaku Variations" he performed with the Vertavo Quartet. That same year, he teamed with singer Unni Løvlid and violinist Vegar Vårdal as Rusk, and released a self-titled debut offering. It is among several folk ensembles Haltli works with including the Snowflake Trio, with Irish flutist Nuala Kennedy and Vårdal. He also joined saxophonist Trygve Seim's large group Sangam, and played on their first album, The Source and Different Cikadas. Looking on Darkness won the year's Spellemannprisen -- the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammy Award -- for best contemporary music album.
Haltli stayed exceptionally busy. Poing made their recorded debut with the acclaimed Giants of Jazz in 2003, and Sangam issued their self-titled debut for ECM in 2004. Furthermore, he performed solo and with his own groups across Europe. Poing's sophomore outing, Planet Poing appeared in in 2005, followed by Rusk II in 2006. The next year, Haltli dazzled critics and contemporary music audiences across the globe with Passing Images on ECM. He led a quartet that included trumpeter/electronicist Arve Henriksen, vocalist/composer Maja S.K. Ratkje, and violist Garth Knox. The set offered six Haltli originals, a group improvisation, a new arrangement of Ratkje's title track, and the traditional "Jag Haver Ingen Kärare." In 2007, he contributed to Mats Eilertsen's Short Stories. Haltli re-teamed with Seim for the duo outing Yeraz on ECM in 2008; its wildly eclectic program offered originals by Seim, G.I. Gurdjieff, Bob Marley, and the Armenian folk song of the title. That year, Poing also collaborated with Ratkje on her Tzadik debut, River Mouth Echoes. Between 2008 and 2011, Haltli was almost constantly on tour, working across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and especially Russia, where his music was embraced by a mass audience, allowing him to headline festivals. In 2011, Poing backed Ratkje on her Wach Auf for Øra Fonogram. In addition, Haltli joined the faculty of the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and taught master classes across Europe.
In 2012, SIMIX Classics released Haltli's Arne Nordheim: Complete Accordion Works. It included four compositions dated between 1968 and 1986: the solo "Flashing," "Dinosauros" for accordion and electric tape, the suite "Signals for Accordion, Electric Guitar and Percussion" (featuring American guitarist Raoul Björkenheim and percussionist Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen), and "Spur" with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Christian Eggen. The album was greeted with laudatory acclaim. In 2014, Haltli released Vagabonde Blu on the Norwegian independent Hubro. Performed completely solo, the set was recorded at the Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum, and featured classical works by Salvatore Sciarrino, Aldo Clementi, and Nordheim.
Haltli joined Seim's studio quartet in 2016 on the saxophonist's Rumi Songs, and under his own name released Air on ECM's classical New Series imprint, performing compositions by Bent Sørensen and Hans Abrahamsen. He enlisted Trondheim Soloists and the Arditti Quartet as his accompanists. Poing and Ratkje collaborated on Kapital Moral for Grappa and Sur POING on Aurora. That year, he also cut the avant improvised collaborative outing StaiStua with bassist Sigurd Hole and pianist Andreas Ulvo.
In 2017, given his outrageously busy schedule -- his touring was almost constant -- Haltli reluctantly resigned his teaching post. He did find time to work with Poing on Stakkars Oslo for Crispin Glover Records; it also featured electronicist Lasse Marhaug and guitarist Lars Lillo-Stenberg. Later that year, Haltli realized a long-held ambition by forming the large ensemble Avant Folk. The group approached traditional and contemporary folk refracted through the twin lenses of improvisation, electronics, and jazz. Their self-titled debut appeared on Hubro in 2018, and was produced and mixed by Ratkje. Haltli enlisted his Poing bandmates, as well as guitarists Juhani Silvola and Oddrun Lilja Jonsdottir, violinist Hans Pålsen Kjorstad, Ståle Storløkken on harmonium and synthesizers, drummer/vocalist Siv Øyunn Kjenstad, double bassist Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson, Hardanger fiddler Erlend Apneseth, and trumpeter/vocalist Hildegunn Øiseth, who doubled on goat horn. Bookended by original Haltli compositions that were saturated with traditional influences while not strictly adhering to them, Avant Folk's middle pieces included "Trio," based on two Norwegian folk songs, the Finnskogen waltz "Gråtar'n," and "Kingo," based on a Faroese hymn. That year, he also appeared as part of the Håkon Kornstad Trio on Im Treibhaus, and with Bonnie Prince Billy on the single "Wild Is the Will."
In 2019, Haltli was intensely busy. He issued Border Woods on Hubro; the set contained six original compositions played by a quartet that included two percussionists and Emilia Amper on nyckelharpa. Interestingly, it was engineered by ECM's house engineer Jan Erik Konshaug. In addition, Haltli appeared as a featured, co-billed soloist with the Erlend Apneseth Trio on Salika, Molik, and worked on Sun Dogs with Snowflake Trio, and Klopper by Norwegian fiddler Ragnhild Furebotten, with Amper appearing on nyckelharpa. Haltli also played at several international festivals solo or with his various groups.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Haltli kept busy. He assembled and released the triple digital album Selected Solo Works, Vol. 1-3 (on his own Svartskog Music Production label) performing compositions by Ratkje, Edison Denisov, James Dillon, Leif Kayser, Rolf Wallin, Ørjan Matre, Robert H.P. Platz, and Magnar Åm. He also issued "Quarantine Quilt" a lockdown single and music video with Avant Folk; they followed it with the digital track "St. Morten," which featured Hardanger violin and vocal prodigy Helga Myhr. In February 2021, Haltli released Avant Folk II; its four works were commissioned in 2019 by Vossa Jazz. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi
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