The Safety Net, a Bird is the Worm series which highlights outstanding older albums that may have flown under the radar when first released.
The Icelandic Jazz sound produces notes that linger, frozen in the air, yet still emit a warmth that makes for the kind of early morning music that allows one to slowly rise to the day. Einar Scheving embodies the beauty and languor of the Icelandic Jazz sound as well as anybody on the scene.
Some albums are like stories. The music of Cycles is ethereal and vivid, like a story that unfolds within a dream.
Your album personnel: Einar Scheving (drums, percussion), Skuli Sverrisson (electric & acoustic bass), Eythor Gunnarsson (piano), and Óskar Gudjonsson (tenor sax).
Take into account opening track “Sveitin.” What begins as a tranquil lullaby transitions into a fluttering coda of saxophone murmurs and rhythms like a chorus of crickets. Like dreams, the context takes a sudden turn, yet it all makes sense in that elastic way logic plays out in slumber. Track “Recycles,” is a lilting tune, with piano trills, saxophone yawns. and gently loping percussion.
Icelandic Folk music informs much of Scheving’s compositions. At times it is hinted at, others it shines through bright and strong. Songs like “No One Knows” have an earthiness to them that speak of old stories told many times. Languid sax lines belie sprightly piano notes, while shimmering cymbals and the low hum of bass create a foundation that appears perpetually shifting, morphing at the edges of sound.
Dreams can be dynamic and lively. “Carrots and Ice Cream” dares to wake the dreamer with sharp saxophone and piano interludes, bass and drums upping the heart rate. On “Rebirth” piano grows tension through rapid repetition of notes, while Scheving’s soft cymbal work counterbalances brooding sax. Sverrisson’s bass lines paint black shadows in the piano’s wake.
But above all else, this is an album of serenity:
Third track “3” opens with Svererisson’s bass like footsteps awash in moonlight. Gunnarsson slides his fingers across the piano strings, and the harp-like sound drives the dream-like ambiance in deeper.
“Folk Song” is a pleasant walk through a forest of slightly familiar yet unnameable objects. Gudjonsson and Gunnarsson attain a casual stroll on sax and piano, while Scheving and Sverrisson walk at a different pace; the crosscurrents of their footfalls is hypnotic.
Title-track “Cycles” is a cloudy day and nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the beautiful cloudy day. Piano and sax are out front, but it’s bass that anchors this tune in place.
The album ends with “In Sight,” which recreates the pattern of the opening track, but in reverse. Now is the sense of waking from a dream, stretching arms wide, and greeting the new day sun.
This album is just flat-out beautiful, and emotive as hell. Exactly the kind of overlooked album that I began the Safety Net series for. You ECM addicts should be all over Cycles.
Released in 2007, this album is Self-Produced.
Jazz from the Reykjavík, Iceland scene.
Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist.