At 38, Lillehammer, Norway’s Jacob Young is set to take on the loose-fitting crown of strum ’n’ thrum king held throughout jazz history by Jim Hall, Bill Frisell and the Pats (Martino, Metheny) by filling up his melodies’ leaps of imaginary rhythm with grand spacious tone. Like those players, Young’s cool use of atmosphere/ambience is as crucial as the interplay and improvisation between himself, his producer and his team of musical collaborators. Since nobody does wind-and-wood openness like ECM overlord Manfred Eicher, it’s up to six-string slinger Young, Jon Christensen (drums), Mathias Eick (trumpet), Mats Eilertsen (double bass) and Vidar Johansen (bass clarinet, tenor sax) to make or break the moods.
Young & co. take control of these moods by allowing the airiness around his melodies to breathe deeply their own air. Each composition feels as if it’s filling its own room and sniffing it own rarefied breeze—the wide Nordic berth of “Sideways” and “Out of Night,” the tightly angled space of “St. Ella.” Yet the record’s entirety is fluid, even folksy in an oddly and vaguely European fashion. Most of this comes down to the tender interplay between Young and Eick. They play upon each other’s heartstrings (corny, I know) in a manner similar to that of trumpeter Kenny Wheeler’s Gnu High with keyboardist Keith Jarrett on “Maybe We Can.” Even Chet Baker’s cool-jazz chamber sounds of his Sextet figure into Young’s vibrant tones. That’s some brisk air Jacob Young’s walking on.