Mathias Eick


Mathias Eick reflects on distances travelled in this intensely melodic set of original compositions, which makes an imaginative journey from Hem, the tiny Norwegian village where the trumpeter grew up, to the vast plains of Dakota in the American Midwest. It was to the Midwest that hundreds of thousands of Norwegians travelled by sea in the 19th and early 20th  centuries – and naturally they took their music with them. In similar spirit Eick, a Norwegian improviser-composer strongly influenced by North American jazz, here reintegrates some of the colours and textures of his native folk music in these newly-created pieces. In the frontline of the line-up featured here he is partnered by the brilliant violinist Gjermund Larsen, whose roots are in the Norwegian folk tradition. Trumpet and violin exchange lines and soar together above a brilliant rhythm section with Jon Balke at his most lyrical, Helge Norbakken periodically finding pulses that can suggest tribal drumming or buffalo hooves, and the resourceful Mats Eilertsen helping to drive the music forward. The original inspiration for the album was sparked by a gruelling North American tour: “I’d been out on the road for a long time and was feeling homesick. Then we reached the area called the Rural Midwest and I suddenly felt as if I was home. I had a sense of why the early settlers would want to build their farms there. It reminded me very much of parts of Norway. ”

Der Trompeter Mathias Eick unternimmt in diesen ausgesprochen melodiösen Eigenkompositionen eine imaginäre Reise von seinem kleinen norwegischen Heimatdorf Hem bis in die weiten Ebenen von Dakota im Mittelwesten der USA. Tausende Norweger waren im 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhundert über den Atlantik in den Mittelwesten gereist – und natürlich brachten sie dabei ihre heimatliche Musik mit. In einer ähnlichen Geisteshaltung re-integriert Eick, ein stark vom nordamerikanischen Jazz beeinflusster Improvisator und Komponist, hier die Farben und Texturen der Folkmusik seiner Heimat in seine neugeschaffenen Stücke. Sein Partner in der Frontline dieses Quintetts ist der Geiger Gjermund Larsen, dessen stilistische Wurzeln in der norwegischen Folktradition liegen. Trompete und Violine tauschen Melodielinien aus und erheben sich über die brillante Rhythmusgruppe. In ihr spielt Jon Balke lyrischer denn je, Helge Norbakken findet Pulsschläge, die sowohl Stammestrommeln als auch das Hufgetrappel von Büffeln suggerieren können, und Bassist Mats Eilertsen treibt die Musik einfallsreich vorwärts.
Die ursprüngliche Inspiration zu dem Album zündete während einer aufreibenden Nordamerika-Tournee. „Ich war schon eine ganze Zeit auf Tour und hatte Heimweh. Dann erreichten wir jene Gegend, die man den Mittleren Westen nennt, und plötzlich hatte ich das Gefühl zuhause zu sein. Ich konnte nachfühlen, warum die frühen Siedler hier ihre Farmen bauen wollten. Es erinnerte mich sehr an Teile Norwegens.“
Featured Artists Recorded

May 2014, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date


  • 1Midwest
    (Mathias Eick)
  • 2Hem
    (Mathias Eick)
  • 3March
    (Mathias Eick)
  • 4At Sea
    (Mathias Eick)
  • 5Dakota
    (Mathias Eick)
  • 6Lost
    (Mathias Eick)
  • 7Fargo
    (Mathias Eick)
  • 8November
    (Mathias Eick)
Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick pays tribute to the North American Midwest in an album of intensely melodic compositions which reflect thematically upon journeys and homecomings both literal and spiritual. The original inspiration for the album came during an arduous tour of the US and Canada.

“We’d started on the West Coast and were driving long distances every day. I was beginning to get very homesick. Then we reached the area called the Rural Midwest and I suddenly had the strange feeling that I was home. It occurred to me that some of the early settlers must have felt this way, when they looked at the rich soil of the plains and saw that this was wonderful land for farming. Parts of the Midwest remind me strongly of parts of Norway including the southeast of Norway where I grew up.” This realization led to thinking about the ways in which both people and music had travelled. Almost a million Norwegians left for North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and eighty percent of them settled in the Midwest. In Dakota a third of the population claims Norwegian ancestry.

In his music for Midwest, Eick sketches an imaginary voyage from Hem, the village of his birth (“so small there’s not even a street sign”), over the seas to America. The musical concept determined the personnel for the recording. The first player approached was violinist Gjermund Larsen. ECM listeners know him from his contributions to Christian Wallumrød’s albums, but Larsen is firstly a musician rooted in folk playing. He comes from a folk music family and his improvising is informed by his knowledge of traditional music: there’s a sense of history embodied in his sound.

“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.