I’m rather liking the place Mathias Eick has settled into


There’s nothing substantially new offered up by the latest from Mathias Eick, and that’s really not a criticism.  The trumpeter’s melody-driven form of Nordic Jazz has kept to a tight focus in terms of expression.  Sometimes, like on his debut, The Door, it possesses some eccentric quirks that give melodies curious shapes and emergent patterns.  And then there was the push into contemporary lite territory on 2011’s Skala… an album that was undeniably pretty and satisfied to keep it at that.  2015’s Midwest shifted back in the direction of The Door‘s intriguing qualities, adding undercurrents of tension and outpourings of edginess in well-placed spots and well-measured doses.  2018’s Ravensburg is the triangulation of those three albums, borrowing a bit from each for a homogeneous sound that has plenty of appeal.  It’s not unusual for the crystalization of developing voices to land in a spot that seems awfully familiar to territory traversed along the way.

These are beautiful pieces.  Melodies beam like a wide smile.  Sometimes the tone is a bit melancholy and sometimes it shines like the purest optimism.  A melody from Eick’s trumpet is the closest approximation to the sound of an eagle soaring majestically overhead, though he’s at his strongest when he’s altering that trajectory into unexpected directions.  With its interwoven strands of melodic electricity, “Family” attains an alluring sort of intensity.  It’s also a nice reminder of Midwest at its strongest.  And the moonlight drama of “Children” recalls how The Door would circle endlessly back upon itself until the accumulation of melodic streams became a surging wave come crashing down.  And “August” would sit pretty right next to any of the tracks on Skala.

Andreas Ulvo returns on piano.  He was there for Skala in much the same way Eick was there for Ulvo’s Eple Trio on 2014’s Universal Cycle… complementing existent qualities and amplifying them further.  I think that touches upon what I liked best about Jon Balke sitting at piano on previous Eick recordings.  Balke behaved as a foil to Eick’s tendency to go soaring with a melody.  Even at his most ambient, Balke brings some ominous tones and underlying tension to his works, and that was a nice fit for Eick’s warmer tones and smoother delivery.  I like that Eick keeps bringing in some strings to his recording sessions.  It’s Håkon Aase this time around, and the violinist has much the same melodic sensibilities as Eick, which provides an interesting contrast to the way in which Gjermund Larsen interacted with Eick on Midwest.  Bassist Audun Erlien drummer Torstein Lofthus and percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken all return to the fold, with Erlien and Lofthus absent for Midwest, whereas Norbakken returns from that session.  That Ravensburg comes off so strongly as a synthesis of everything that has come before, it only makes sense that the personnel would also be comprised of those different projects.

Life is good when Mathias Eick puts out this kind of album every so often.  Our lives need it.

Your album personnel:  Mathias Eick (trumpet, voice), Håkon Aase (violin), Andreas Ulvo (piano), Audun Erlien (electric bass), Torstein Lofthus (drums), Helge Andreas Norbakken (drums, percussion).

Released on ECM Records.

Music from Oslo, Norway.

Available at Amazon.