Trumpeter Mathias Eick, in the first album released under his own name, focuses all the qualities that have made him a musician to be reckoned with in and around jazz of the last decade. “The Door” is distinguished by vaulting lyricism and clear-edged melodies, a strong sense of ambient space in the writing, and edge and excitement and openness to improvisation. The 28-year-old Norwegian cites Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Kenny Wheeler, Tomasz Stanko, Arve Henriksen and Nils Petter Molvaer as influences upon his stylistic evolution as a soloist yet “The Door” (recorded in Oslo’s Rainbow and Cabin Recorders studios in September 2007) also confirms that Mathias Eick has found his own characteristic and readily-identifiable voice.
Eick’s spacious pieces allow plenty of free range for Jon Balke, whose resourcefulness as pianist, always taking the path less trodden, is in evidence throughout the album. Balke’s playing, in a rare sideman role, is one of the pleasures of “The Door”. Orchestrator par excellence in presentations of his own music (particularly with Magnetic North), Balke the pianist is effectively an arranger-in-action here, continually opening up fresh perspectives inside Eick’s robust ballads and mid-tempo pieces.
Drummer Audun Kleive is another player with deep ECM roots. A former member of Terje Rypdal’s Chasers and of Charles Lloyd’s touring quartet, he has also had a long association with percussionist Marilyn Mazur. Here he in tandem with bassist Audun Erlien, (previously heard on ECM with Nils Petter Molvaer), developing and telescoping the grooves and pulses.
Guest artist Stian Carstensen who appears on three tunes (“Cologne Blues”, “October” and “December”) was last heard on ECM playing accordion with Trygve Seim (“Different Rivers”) is here featured on pedal steel guitar, an instrument whose expressive potential is rarely glimpsed in jazz contexts.
Mathias Eick’s resumé includes work with musicians of many styles, from Chick Corea and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra to Norwegian psychedelic rock band Motorpsycho. A primary project in the last ten years has been the jazz/progressive rock ten-piece band Jaga Jazzist: Eick’s multi-instrumentalism has been an important part of that group’s sound and on “The Door” he is also heard on vibraphone and guitar as well as trumpet, as he puts it, whatever needs to be played.
Eick has appeared on two ECM recordings with Norwegian-American guitarist Jacob Young, “Evening Falls” and “Sideways”, and on Finnish harpist/pianist/composer Iro Haarla’s “Northbound”. In 2007 he became a frontline soloist of Manu Katché’s band, appearing on the best-selling “Playground” and touring extensively with the French/African drummer (more than seventy concerts scheduled in 2008, see www.ecmrecords.com/tours
The Mathias Eick Quartet played a launch concert for “The Door” in Stavanger (officially the cultural capital of Europe in 2008) on May 9. The group is also featured at Norwegian festivals this summer, with appearances at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival on July 5 and the Canal Street Festival in Arendal on July 25.