An adjective, a place, and a name come to mind when listening to Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick. The adjective is “atmospheric”, the place (albeit fictional) is ECMsville, and the name is Miles Davis. Five of the seven chart titles on Eick’s latest album are gerunds naming earthbound actions; the other is flying. The non-gerund one in any case may refer to the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, whose music is ethereal.
The word missing in this round-up is “jazz”, the term for music that was once sure-footedly lodged in time and place and easy to pin down but is now as fugitive as a zig-zagging, deflating balloon that has morphed into something else after splatting to a halt in the town referred to above. That’s observation, not criticism. Eick’s open-horn and wistful meanderings recall Davis and his disciples in reflective manner, even with the Norwegian’s light vibrato, but that seems to be a provenance lodged far away in a more fiery, troubled and/or agitated past. In ECMsville, listening to jazz is sometimes like watching the drift of clouds.
After the third track, Turning, by Eick’s septet (a band calling on 11 sources of sound), one begins to ask why there are two drummers in the mix as well as percussion. It’s not obvious, any more than Håkon Aase’s violin sidling up to Eick’s trumpet out front and Stian Carstensen’s pedal-steel guitar in the ensemble are combinations likely to yield more than theoretical results. But they work. There’s obviously something antiphonal going on, the details subordinate to the overall soundscape in the opening Loving, for example, in which conventional jazz instruments of piano, bass, and drums attend dutifully to direction and texture.
The quality that discriminates one track from another – say, the looser freedom of Playing from the poignancy falling well short of pathos in Begging – is less than the one that binds all tracks into a rolling sonic programme conceived, performed and recorded with all the influence and resources ECMsville can provide.
Loving; Caring; Turning; Flying; Arvo; Playing; Begging (38.03)
Mathias Eick (t, kyb, v); Håkon Aase (vn, pc); Andreas Ulvo (p); Audun Erlien (b); Torstein Lofthus (d); Helge Andreas Norbakken (d, pc); Stian Carstensen (pedal-steel guitar). Oslo, August 2020.
ECM 385 6308