“Evening Falls” is the international debut recording of an exceptional musician from the seemingly inexhaustible Norwegian talent pool that ECM has returned to over the decades. Jacob Young is a guitarist, bandleader, improviser and jazz composer whose sensibilities have been shaped both by the history of the music as it has unfolded in the North and by his deep knowledge of the American jazz tradition, studied also at first hand.
Born in Lillehammer in 1970, Young was introduced to jazz by his American father. At the age of 12 he took up the guitar and was, initially, self-taught on the instrument. After studying music at the University of Oslo, he received a scholarship to the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan. His years there “were devoted to learning the standard jazz repertoire as a starting point for a broader understanding of improvised harmonic music.” Young’s principal teacher was the great guitarist Jim Hall (Jacob’s warm, glowing, rounded tone acknowledges the influence), with whom he studied both privately and in ensemble settings. He also took lessons with John Abercrombie (who later praised his “great playing in and out of the tradition”) and studied jazz composition with Richie Beirach and Ken Werner. After attaining his degree in 1993, Young freelanced around New York for two years playing with, amongst others, Rashied Ali, Marc Copeland, Arnie Lawrence, Junior Mance and Larry Goldings.
Back in Norway he issued three albums for local labels with a cast of supporting musicians including Nils Petter Molvaer, Trygve Seim, Arve Henriksen, Christian Wallumrød, and Jarle Vespestad, and other names familiar to ECM listeners. Producer Manfred Eicher first heard Jakob Young playing live with Trygve Seim’s group at the Blå Club in Oslo a few years back. Young also caught the attention of long-established Norwegian singer Karin Krog who formed a duo with the guitarist which has since toured the world. (A Krog/Young CD “Where Flamingos Fly”, comprised mostly of standards, was produced by John Surman for Norwegian label Grappa).
The band on “Evening Falls” has been a working group for two years now and is uniquely set up by Young to reflect the styles and ideas of three generations of Norwegian improvisers – the age range of the band stretches from 24 (extraordinary young trumpeter Matthias Eick) to 60 (veteran drumming genius Jon Christensen).
Of the music on “Evening Falls”, Jacob Young says, “These are lyrical compositions - songs - but at the same time it’s jazz music, with a lot of room for melodic interplay and improvisation.” All pieces are written by Young, save for one co-composed with Christensen.
Jon Christensen’s resumé need hardly be itemized here; he’s played on more ECM studio recordings than any other player. His particular wide-open improvisational responses have enlivened any number of sessions, in all kinds of styles, but he’s particularly happy to be playing music than can unambiguously be called jazz with Young’s ensemble. Jacob says of him, “He’s a European institution of modern drumming, a master of music, probably the most influential musician of his generation. A constant source of inspiration…” One of the few remaining jazz musicians committed to the concept of the music as “the sound of surprise”, Christensen always finds new ways to inflect the material and to frame each soloist’s statements.
The touchingly melancholic tone of his trumpet and his flair for vaulting melodies has sometimes made critics allude to Kenny Wheeler in the two years that Mathias Eick has been playing with Jacob Young. But Eick too is an improviser who adapts his playing to the context in which he finds himself. He is often heard with the band Jaga Jazzist, playing in the cracks between rock and jazz, and has also collaborated with notorious indie-rock band Motorpsycho.
Heard mostly on bass clarinet on “Evening Falls” but also, briefly, on tenor sax, is Vidar Johansen. Johansen was a mainstay of Oslo’s Club 7 jamming scene in the 1970s, and is a widely respected player. He has also been a contributor to the ‘little big band’ Oslo 13 under Jon Balke’s direction, and to Bugge Wesseltoft’s so-called New Conceptions of Jazz.
Bassist Mats Eilertsen has worked with Jacob Young since 1996; the leader describes him as “one of the most wonderful musicians to have emerged in Norway in recent years”. Eilertsen has also played with Bobo Stenson, with the Ian Ballamy/Arve Henriksen band Food (as on the Rune Grammofon released album “Veggie” last year) and many others.