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Monday, June 27, 2011

The jazz in Jaga Jazzist

Posted By on 06.27.11 at 12:37 PM

Mathias Eick
  • Mathias Eick
In this week's issue I preview Wednesday's concert by Norwegian group Jaga Jazzist, noting their obvious admiration for Tortoise. Another thing linking the two groups is the presence of hard-core jazz musicians in their ranks. Tortoise's lineup includes guitarist Jeff Parker (and drummer John Herndon has been turning up more and more often in improvising combos like Starlicker, Exploding Star Orchestra, and Powerhouse Sound). Jaga Jazzist has even more members who also play jazz.

Perhaps the most notable is trumpeter Mathias Eick, who recently released his second album as a leader, Skala (ECM). The horn man has a distinctly Nordic sound, with a full, mellow tone and a meticulously considered improvising style that leaves little room for superfluous gestures. His solos are highly lyrical and usually sound as if they were mapped out in advance; most of the compositions have a rocklike concision and simple, hooky melodic ideas. As much as I admire Eick's playing and as beautiful as the new album can be, it sometimes sounds too calculated—several tracks feature both Torstein Lofthus and Gard Nilssen, two of the most powerful drummers in Norway, and they come across like a little less than a single percussionist.

Keyboardist Øystein Moen plays in Puma, vibist Andreas Mjøs has worked with In the Country, and trombonist Erik Johannessen is a member of the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. And all nine members on Jaga Jazzist's current tour, as products of Norway's enviable music-education system, are skilled and versatile players.

photo: Colin Eick

Today's playlist:

Jeff Davis, We Sleep Outside (Loyal Label)
Afrocubism, Afrocubism (World Circuit/Nonesuch)
Decoy, Spirit Vol. 1 (Bo’Weavil)
Harris Eisenstadt, Woodblock Prints (No Business)
Frazey Ford, Obadiah (Nettwerk)

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