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.
The Epic is saxophonist Kamasi Washington's aptly titled, triple-length, 172-minute debut album for Brainfeeder. He is a veteran of L.A.'s music scene and has played with Gerald Wilson, Harvey Mason, Flying Lotus, and Kendrick Lamar (his horn is prominently featured on To Pimp a Butterfly), to name but a few. Most of his bandmates have played together since high school, and it shows. There are two drummers (including Ronald Bruner), two bassists (including Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner on electric), two keyboardists, trumpet, trombone, and vocals (Patrice Quinn). In various settings, they are supported by a string orchestra and full choir conducted by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. Washington composed 13 of these 17 tunes; he also meticulously arranged and produced them. At just over six to nearly 15 minutes, the jams leave room for engaged improvisation. The Epic is based on a concept, though it's unnecessary to grasp in order to enjoy. The music reflects many inspirations – John Coltrane, Horace Tapscott's Pan-African People's Arkestra, Azar Lawrence's Prestige period, Donald Byrd's and Eddie Gale's jazz and choir explorations, Pharoah Sanders' pan global experiments, Afro-Latin jazz, spiritual soul, and DJ culture.