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August 2008

Mathias Eick
The Door
ECM Records

Scandinavian jazz can be a tricky proposition for American ears. It often feels spacious and airy, but that’s some thin ice to walk: Those very qualities can lead to just plain boring. No such worries for Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick, whose debut album, The Door, is an achievement. He’s a little bit Tomasz Stanko, a little bit Nils Petter Molvaer, and a good deal of himself. His tone is plaintive and spare; like all good bandleaders, his focus is on the interaction of his musicians, who include pianist Jon Balke, drummer Audun Kleive, electric bassist Audun Erlien and pedal-steel guitarist Stian Carstensen.

Eick, who has worked with Chick Corea and Manu Katche, among others, is still in his 20s, but his patient style suggests maturity beyond his years. So, too, do his eight original compositions. Consider the title track, which begins the album. It doesn’t take long to develop—the theme is stated almost immediately—but it evolves methodically, ultimately asserting itself with a churning rock beat that finally recedes like the tide. Eick’s melancholy approach, meanwhile, remains unchanged, finally ending (effectively) in mid-thought. He plays guitar and vibraphone on a couple of tracks, but the trumpet is his real voice. On tunes like “Stavanger,” which features some dynamic percussion work from both Kleive’s kit and Balke’s piano, Eick seemingly resists the urge to wail. The contrast of his restraint and the energy around him constitutes the album’s driving tension.

Originally published in August 2008
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