Mathias Eick - Midwest - ECM 2410


“Gjermund’s one of my absolute favourites,” says Eick, “and I’ve wanted to record with him for many years. It was a matter of finding the right project to present to him, and this seemed to be it.” Trumpet and violin sing together gloriously here. “It turned out that we have some quite similar ideas about phrasing. And, as the recording session progressed, we grew closer as players, exchanging ideas in the music.” Mathias emphasizes that his drafting of the Midwest project has been intuitive and inspirational rather than musicological: “I’ve never studied folk music so my approach to the concept was more an imaginative one – sketches and impressions of places, landscapes and people, with the idea of the history in the background.” The track titled “Fargo” makes an affectionate nod both to the North Dakotan city and to the Coen Brothers, whose quintessentially American film of the same name employed orchestrations of folk themes from Norway’s Telemark region to underline Midwestern stoicism.

Pianist Jon Balke was a presence already on Mathias’s ECM leader debut The Door (recorded in 2007). Balke’s extensive discography has embraced a vast range of music since he first appeared on ECM in 1975, from free textural playing (see the recent Jøkleba album Outlands) to the jazz of Masqualero’s Bande à Part and transcultural projects (including the widely acclaimed Siwan). Midwest finds him at his most lyrical and outgoing. Helge Norbakken has worked extensively with Balke in projects including the Magnetic North Orchestra and the “percussion think-tank” Batagraf. Mathias Eick praises Norbakken’s ability both to drive the music and to comment on it: “He makes a very significant contribution – creating a kind of three dimensional landscape with his drumming” which also seems highly associative, at times even hinting at Native American tribal pulses or perhaps bison hooves pounding the plains.

Mats Eilertsen is meanwhile well-known as one of the most resourceful contemporary bassists and the loosely folk-influenced jazz of Midwest seems a perfectly logical environment for a player who at the time of the recording was gigging with both the Tord Gustavsen Quartet and Nils Okland’s band as well as his own groups.

Throughout, the compositions and the overarching concept provide an optimal context for the special qualities of Eick’s trumpet soloing – the strong yet melancholy-tinged singing tone, by now immediately identifiable, in this case yearning for home.

Midwest was recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio and produced by Manfred Eicher. It’s Mathias Eick’s third ECM album as a leader, following on from The Door (recorded 2007), and Skala (recorded 2009-2010). Mathias can also be heard on Evening Falls and Sideways with guitarist Jacob Young, on Northbound and Vespers with pianist-harpist Iro Haarla, and on Playground with drummer Manu Katché.