(ECM 274 3228, CD Review by Chris Parker)
Although regarded as a ‘jazz’ album by virtue of its instrumentation (trumpet, saxophone, rhythm section, plus occasional harp and keyboards), trumpeter Mathias Eick‘s second ECM recording as leader is as likely to draw inspiration for his fluent, accessible compositions from pop and classical music as from jazz.
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True, Jan Garbarek’s ‘plaintive cry’ is cited as among the sources of one of the album’s most striking pieces, ‘Edinburgh’ (Tore Brunborg featured on tenor), but other tunes have their sources in rock music: ‘Oslo’, for example, is discernibly influenced by Radiohead’s trademark melancholic soar over assertively scurrying drums; ‘Joni’ nods to the great Candian singer/songwriter via the sincerest form of flattery by using her hypnotically compelling, long-lined verse structure – centred on Andreas Ulvo‘s rolling piano – as the basis for one of the album’s standout tracks.
Eick’s trumpet style relies, in his words, on an attempt to ‘create a tone that was a mix of all the sounds I loved’ (among his trumpet models are Kenny Wheeler, Chet Baker and Tomasz Stanko), and there is indeed a haunting purity in everything he plays, particularly when set, as in the album’s closer, ‘Epilogue’, against the vigorous drumming of Torstein Lofthus.
There are moments on this attractive, immediately appealing album when a ravishing soundscape (cf. another recent ECM album featuring Brunborg, Manu Katché’s Third Round) cannot quite compensate for the lack of two of jazz’s (arguably) defining features, grit and unpredictability, but overall, Eick admirers will find Skala irresistibly seductive.
Mathias Eick is expected to be touring in the UK towards the end of this year. He also appears on Vespers, the recent release, also from ECM, from the quintet of pianist/harpist Iro Haarla.
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