Diverted Travels

Jon Balke, Magnetic North Orchestra

CD17,90 out of print

Diverted Travels”, the third ECM album by the pan-Scandinavian Magnetic North Orchestra, extends the radius of the work already documented on “Further” (recorded 1993) and “Kyanos” (recorded 2001) and confirms once again that Jon Balke is one of the most unique writer-arrangers in contemporary jazz. “Diverted Travels” features a radically revised line-up – only the leader and trumpeter Per Jørgensen remain from the original band, but the music, which continues to move in mysterious ways, with ever-arresting harmonic variety and textural differentiation, and a delicate equilibrium between the composed and the free, is unmistakably Balke’s.

Featured Artists Recorded

September & November 2003

  • 1Machinery
    (Jon Balke)
    04:47
  • 2Nutating
    (Jon Balke)
    03:59
  • 3Sink
    (Jon Balke)
    01:06
  • 4Columns
    (Jon Balke)
    03:30
  • 5Deep
    (Jon Balke)
    01:33
  • 6In Patches
    (Jon Balke)
    05:58
  • 7Ondular
    (Jon Balke)
    02:44
  • 8Downslope
    (Jon Balke)
    04:55
  • 9Rivers
    (Jon Balke)
    03:32
  • 10Climb
    (Jon Balke)
    04:05
  • 11Inside
    (Jon Balke)
    00:52
  • 12And On
    (Jon Balke)
    06:47
  • 13The Drive
    (Ingar Zach)
    04:30
  • 14Falling
    (Jon Balke)
    02:38
Stereoplay, Klangtipp
 
Norwegian composer/pianist Balke creates a remarkable evocation of his homeland by combining the fluttering dissonances of freeform jazz with rootsy violins and percussion. His spicily percussive yet spacious piano-playing dovetails neatly with the trumpet of the other main soloist, Per Jorgensen. But it is the scoring for violins that makes this album special. Played with verve, it gives the music structure and emotional depth, whether menacingly out of tempo or driving the ensemble with riffs that would do Count Basie proud.
Mike Hobart, Financial Times
 
The eight members of Jon Balke’s Magnetic North Orchestra include bass and two percussionists, but add trumpet, sax, two violins and Balke’s keyboards, and there’s an ensemble with a surely unique sound. Woodsy textures and the thrumming of palms and fingers on drumskins are blended with the sharp chatter of horns, the leader’s needle-fine piano commentaries and a faint background burble of electronics. As the album’s title suggests, the 14 pieces make up a fascinating journey.
Richard Cook, BBC Music Magazine
 
Delikate Trompetenklänge, filigrane Klavierläufe, irisierende Streicher und subtile Rhythmen: Mit seinem fast komplett neu formierten Magnetic North Orchestra breitet Keyboarder Jon Balke auf Diverted Travels wieder ein Klangpanorama von ganz eigener Schönheit aus. Skandinavische Impressionen verweben sich hier mit moderner Kammermusik und orientalischen Einflüssen. ... Ein höchst sinnlicher Hörgenuss.
Sven Thielmann, Stereoplay
 
Seit Jon Balke Mitte der 70er als 19-jähriger Pianist im Quartett des Bassisten Arild Andersen den nordischen Jazz mitdefinierte, ist er fest in Oslos Jazzszene verankert. Die neue CD seines Magnetic North Orchestra präsentiert eine Musik der Latenz, deren stilistische Bezugspunkte jedoch nie ausgespielt werden. Von der schlichten Schönheit dreier Barockviolinen im Terzabstand bis zum Klirren der Flageoletts, von der Lebenswärme folkloristischer Rhythmen bis zu den spitzen Schreien, mit denen die beiden Bläser an den Grenzen der Tonalität rütteln – permanent deuten sich neue Richtungen an, deren Spannung sich in unvermittelten Eruptionen entlädt. Das funktioniert nur, weil die rolle des Solisten in den Ensembleklang eingebunden und die ausufernde Dramaturgie des Jazzsolo aufgegeben wurde. Wie Zahnräder greifen die einzelnen Stimmen ineinander und bewegen die Maschinerie dieser Musik. Einer Musik, die gleichzeitig schlicht ist und komplex, ergreifend und mitreißend.
Stefan Hentz, Financial Times Deutschland
 
Auf Ökonomie legt der Komponist Jon Balke hohen Wert. Selbst in treibenden rhythmischen Passagen verlieren die Klänge nie ihren Feinschliff. Balke verwirklicht seinen Traum einer pulsierenden Kammermusik, die sich aller Klischees entlädt, welche gängige Formen weltoffener Musik genauso feilbieten wie mancher, den Erwartungen nur zu gerecht werdender nordischer Jazz. Arabische Passionen verbinden sich auf den „umgeleiteten Reisen“ mit skandinavischer Raumerfahrung. Neben Jon Balkes Piano und seinem sehr reduziertem Synthesizerspiel agiert – so zurückhaltend wie expressiv – eine dreiköpfige Violinengruppe. Die doppelt besetzte Perkussion erinnert an die Frühzeit der Fusion Music... Der dänische Saxophonist und Flötist Frederik Lundin und der Trompeter/Sänger Per Jorgenson üben sich in einer asketischen Disziplin, die enorme Freiheiten schafft – nicht zuletzt dank einer unberechenbaren Balance aus notierten Klängen und freien Inseln der Improvisation!
Michael Engelbrecht, Jazzthetik
 
Mit dem Magnetic North Orchestra strebt Balke eine „pulsierende Kammermusik“ aus Jazz, zeitgenössischer Komposition und nichtwestlichen, insbesondere afrikanischen Elementen an, vermeidet aber jede World-Jazz-Fusion. In 14 kompakten Stücken schafft er vielmehr eine innere Spannung aus Farben und Flächen, rhythmischen Texturen und Grooves, die sich vielleicht von nichtwestlicher Musik herleitet, davon jedoch zugleich abstrahiert. Und wie im Jazz kommt hier nicht nur die Improvisation zu ihrem Recht, sondern es gibt auch markante Stimmen, etwa Per Jørgensens „vokale“ Trompete und seinen folk-inspirierten Gesang.
Berthold Klostermann, Fono Forum
 
 
 
“Diverted Travels”, the third ECM album by the pan-Scandinavian Magnetic North Orchestra, extends the radius of the work already documented on “Further” (recorded 1993) and “Kyanos” (recorded 2001) and confirms once again that Jon Balke is one of the most unique writer-arrangers in contemporary jazz. “Diverted Travels” features a radically revised line-up – only the leader and trumpeter Per Jørgensen remain from the original band, but the music, which continues to move in mysterious ways, with ever-arresting harmonic variety and textural differentiation, and a delicate equilibrium between the composed and the free, is unmistakably Balke’s.

His goal when he formed the Magnetic North Orchestra in 1992 was to develop a new music that drew upon the jazz tradition, contemporary composition, and diverse non-Western forms, especially North and West African music, of which Jon Balke has much practical experience. But, from the outset, it was also one of Balke’s self-imposed directives that his writing for the band would most stringently steer clear of any hint of glib crossover or fusion: “The concept is based on avoiding application of elements of these forms, and rather developing a new kind of pulsating chamber music by learning from the inner energy that these forms possess.” Balke’s writing for “Diverted Travels” is indeed chamber music that pulsates.

The first, sprawling edition of Magnetic North combined a large percussion group, a string quartet and a jazz sextet, “to explore the palette of sound and possibilities that this instrumentation could give.” Since then, an eight-piece nucleus has been Balke’s preferred touring model, but the smaller units have retained much of the sound-colour and timbral potential of the original group while operating with increasingly subtlety, as the leader continues to explore “the balance between polyphonic writing and improvisation.”

In July 2001, in Copenhagen, Balke again had an opportunity to direct a very large ensemble: Grand Magnetic, as he called it, augmented Magnetic North with a 14-piece string group. In this context Balke met Bjarte Eike, Peter Spissky and Thomas Pitt who were section leaders within the ensemble: “After that, I started sketching, working out how to integrate the composed playing inside the ongoing improvised playing, and let the two elements feed each other continuously, instead of alternating. I found I wanted to approach the dialectics between the composed and the improvised in a different way.” This realisation led to the disbanding of the existing line-up.

Changes took place in the winter of 2002/3 and the new group was fully fluent with Balke’s concept by the time of its September tour which found Magnetic North racing through nine countries. Of the new repertoire, Balke says, “I’ve been happy to find that I can include quite complex compositions and sort of ‘hide’ them inside the music without losing the flow of dynamic energy that makes spontaneous improvised music so great to play and listen to.”
As Richard Cook, reviewing this group’s performance at the “Music of ECM” festival in Dornbirn, Austria, wrote in Jazz Review: “Balke’s deft interweaving of timbres and sonic contrasts was so absolutely refined that there seemed to be no false step anywhere. Compositions and themes within compositions came and went and left traces on the air like slowly evaporating smoke-trails”.