Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick opts for a different approach on Midwest. Four years after the song-like Skala, his sophomore ECM date that has attained "classic" status in European critical circles, he employs notions of history, folk tradition, and dislocation. This album was inspired by Eick's time spent playing the American continent; his tour began on the West Coast. When he entered the rural, upper Midwest and encountered its vast open spaces, he began to feel a sense of "home." He later learned that over the past two centuries of immigration, over a million Norwegians had settled there. After conceiving a "road" album that would begin in Hem, the village of his birth, and traverse the ocean to America, Eick enlisted violinist Gjermund Larsen (a folk musician who has contributed to Christian Wallumrød's ECM recordings), pianist Jon Balke, double bassist Mats Eilertsen, and percussionist Helge Norbakken. The compositions are all lyrical, in typical Eick fashion, but with Larsen they take on a rougher, more earthen quality.
Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick makes his ECM debut as a leader with this set, which features keyboardist Jon Balke and a guest appearance from Stian Carstensen - usually an accordionist, but here playing that jazz-band rarity, the pedal-steel guitar. Eick (who also plays vibes and guitar) has played with everybody from the pioneering Trygve Seim collective to Chick Corea, psychedelic group Motorpsycho and contemporary jazz-rock band Jaga Jazzist. His silky, unbrasslike sound is ideally suited to this undulating groove-landscape, and pianist Balke's apposite fills and asides help give the music a collective fluency. But there's more angularity in the rough offbeats and low keyboard grunts under Eick's airy lines on the funky Stavanger, the stately Cologne Blues is like a slowed-down Carla Bley piece (with Carstensen's steel guitar shimmering beneath it, and a probing Balke solo), and there's a folk song lilt to the mid-tempo Williamsburg. A lot of it is slow tone-poetry, but Eick's rather mournful, puffs-of-air sound is pretty captivating.
Mathias Eick’s intensely melodic trumpet occupies the centre-stage in this album of self-penned tunes which will appeal to an audience beyond “jazz”. Against the powerful backdrops offered by his sleek, modern band, driven by two drummers, he delivers richly lyrical soliloquies. Although regarded as a 'jazz' album by virtue of its instrumentation (trumpet, saxophone, rhythm section, plus occasional harp and keyboards), trumpeter Mathias Eick 's second ECM recording as leader is as likely to draw inspiration for his fluent, accessible compositions from pop and classical music as from jazz.