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Mathias Eick Midwest

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Mathias Eick’s Midwest is eight compact, alluring new tunes dealing with the concept of home. Eick composed them after a long tour that began on the Pacific coast. He was homesick until he reached the rural Midwest, which reminded him of where he grew up in southeast Norway.

Eick’s first two ECM recordings (The Door, 2008; Skala, 2011) revealed him as one of the brightest young trumpet voices in jazz, with his own firm concept of lyricism. A single personnel decision makes his third ECM album unique. To a quartet with standard instrumentation (pianist Jon Balke, bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Helge Norbakken), Eick adds the violin of Gjermund Larsen. On the opening title track, Eick’s pure trumpet delineates patterns with his typical freshness and grace, then Larsen enters and introduces not only new stinging sonorities but also new cultural assumptions. Larsen’s roots are in folk and traditional genres. His violin emanates from the fjords by way of Nashville.

Eick and Larsen discover many productive ways to interact. On “March,” with one of Eick’s most expansive, adventurous solos, Larsen only taps a background ostinato and whispers a few counterlines. On “At Sea,” their unisons create haunting harmony. Larsen drives the whirling country swing on “Dakota.”

Their call-and-response on “Lost” becomes richly interwoven improvisation, Larsen echoing and shadowing Eick. What the two of them share is an intimacy with melancholy that serves them well in an album about how home is something you may need to lose before you truly find it. Balke and Eilertsen, by the way, are also deeply conversant with emotions like poignancy and hope.

Originally Published