Mathias Eick – Ravensburg
(ECM 6710239. CD Review by Jon Turney)
A delicate piano figure offsets a violin line, then limpid trumpet joins them – all cushioned discreetly by an attentive rhythm section. The opener, Family, establishes an atmosphere that is maintained through most of the eight shortish cuts on Mathias Eick’s latest offering. There is a sense of restraint, almost decorum, with softly stated mid-tempo themes giving way to gently conversational interchanges between the leader’s horn and new recruit Håkon Ase’s violin.
This is a quiet sextet, four of the members mainly in supporting roles. A casual listener probably wouldn’t know there are two drummers here – Sons of Kemet these guys ain’t. It’s all in the style – filmic, poised, undemonstrative – that you can say is used to stereotype ECM, but they do keep feeding the stereotype. It features here because Eick, like so many who are drawn into Manfred Eicher’s orbit, is not one to tear it up, but relies on deeply felt exhalations, unfolding gently from simple beginnings.
Soft music, then, but stemming from a firm control of Eick’s materials. Even the sole piano solo granted to Andreas Ulvo, on August, is almost entirely one-handed, deepening the mood rather than altering it. But if the range is a little narrow, and ever elegiac rather than ecstatic, there are many small moments to enjoy. The depth of tone of the violin, particularly, is vital to this beautifully-realised Scandi-noir soundworld. Ase eschews the tantalising touches of Americana offered by fellow violinist Germund Larsen on Eick’s previous release, Midwest, but brings his own take on folk sensibility combined with broader improvisational vocabulary. On a few tracks, like Children, where things get more animated over an actual shuffle beat, his sound dances and dives around the trumpet like a good-humoured cousin teasing a sober-sided elder.
Americana would be out of place, as the inspiration behind the compositions this time is Eick’s family, and – on the title track – his grandmother’s German birthplace. The other added ingredient is the leader’s occasional wordless vocal line. It aligns closely with his trumpet sound – unsurprisingly for one who says he has always regarded the horn as an extension of his voice – and adds to the impression that this music is all of a piece.
It’s a beguiling blend, if you’re in the mood, and the samples captured here hint there’s more to come from the two players out front as their conversation develops. You can find out at Ronnie Scotts on 23 April.