35 year old Norwegian trumpet player Mathias Eick is dedicating his newest ECM release to the American Midwest with the help of pianist Jon Balke, bassist Mats Eilertsen, percussionist Helge Norbakken, and violinist Gjermund Larsen.
The latter is featured on the opening title track with a solo which seems to combine the traditional rural country music of both the US Midwest and Eick’s Norwegian home turf. The album was inspired by driving for hours and hours through the US and Canada during a North American tour when he got homesick. That’s why songs like “Hem” (the name of his hometown) are representative of the melancholic mood on the album, even though there seems to be something like the light at the end of the tunnel in the middle section when violin and percussion start to interweave. Somehow someday we all get home again.
During his time with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Mathias had the chance to work with artists like Chick Corea and Pat Metheny – some of the songs here remind me of the 80s Metheny period on ECM as well. There are very lyrical pieces here which cry out for lyrics at the beginning, like “March”, with its phrasing that echoes a singer. There seems to be common ground in the landscape between parts of the American Midwest and parts of Norway and Dakota seems to be the most immediate link because there are two songs that are inspired by this particular state (or states): “Dakota” and “Fargo” (the biggest city of North Dakota). In the former piece, trumpet and violin blend together beautifully, becoming a folksy kind of description of a vast and wide open country. The latter has very rich piano palettes and has deep cinematic qualities.
There is a sort of an inherent natural beauty, an elegant way of loneliness in “Lost” that made me wish the song would never end. The album ends with “November”, transporting various sketches and layouts of the wide open spaces that comprise the Midwest. It’s a shame that I missed the group during the recent jazzahead! convention but they will be back in July playing the Jazz Baltica Festival for example.