Mathias Eick ‘When We Leave’ LP/CD (ECM) 5/5

Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick has one of those tones, and a style of playing, that makes him immediately recognisable among his peers. His wistful, atmospheric sound, combined with his melodic compositions, can’t help but make his music sonically irresistible. And so it is, with his latest release, “When we leave”, an album that successfully furthers the moods and delights of his previous outing, the 2017 release “Ravensberg”. Where that album drew portraits of friends and family and sketched some personal interactions, the new album follows its protagonists through a troubled year. A sense of narrative can be drawn from the interplay of titles and musical atmosphere.

In the same way that Eick’s fellow trumpeters, compatriot Arve Henriksen and Finland’s Verneri Pohjola, draw the listener in with their breathy, mysterious beauty, there are some mouth-watering soundscapes to be enjoyed here. The strength of the bandleader’s compositions lie in their deceptive simplicity. Quaint melodies come and go, sometimes almost touchable before disappearing into the Norwegian mist. Magical sounds can be heard emanating from a forest, with gently cascading water sparkling in the crisp sunlight, dancing in and out of focus. Each moment an individual moment in time, yet beautifully balanced and connected to the whole.

The connected nature of the band is of great importance. And this is where Eick really gets the best from his music. With Hakon Aase on violin and percussion, Andreas Ulvo on piano, Audun Erlien on bass, Stian Carstensen on pedal steel guitar, and Torstein Lofthus and Helge Andreas Norbakken on drums, a perfect balance of sound is beautifully crafted by all of the musicians involved. As a combined unit, the performers create a lovely ambience and lyricism, helping to bring the composer’s musical storytelling to life.

The album opener, “Loving” is a fine example of what Eick’s music is all about. A wonderful melody from the trumpeter gently leads us into the piece, with sensitive, intelligent accompaniment from piano, bass and drums. The violin (sounding more like an Irish fiddle here) develops the tune even further, its effortless, folky musings adding to the beauty. And the pedal steel – what a masterstroke – creating deeper reflections within the music. It’s an instrument not often heard in jazz, although I do remember being particularly impressed by its inclusion in Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band, and it brings a celestial quality to the music here.

Six further tunes roll effortlessly onward; “Caring” shimmers, “Turning” beguiles, “Flying” contemplates, “Arvo” soars, “Playing” dances, and “Begging” enlightens.

Listening to this album is a beautiful experience. Emotive, melancholic, uplifting, and wondrous.

Mike Gates