Thomas Lossius Septet ‘Seven Words For Ekstasia’ CD (AMP Music & Records) 4/5

The sound of sixties jazz looms large on Thomas Lossius Septet’s debut album released on Norway’s AMP label. These references are intentionally ‘loud and clear’ according to Bergen resident and bassist Lossius who founded the septet in 2018. The album contains textural themes from Christian mysticism, apparent from the esoteric sleeve imagery and song titles and obviously central to Lossius who describes himself as a disciple of Jesus on his YouTube channel. The septet is influenced by the likes of Alice Coltrane, Art Blakey and the second quintet of Miles Davis as well as more contemporary jazz from South Africa, Ndabo Zulu, The Unity Band and Bokani Dyer. When asked why he is inspired by Afro sounds that few non-African Norwegians would be familiar with, Lossius replies by quoting Japanese author and jazz fan Haruki Murakami, ‘if you only read the books that everyone else is reading you can only think what everyone else is thinking’. Lossius experienced the music first hand while living in South Africa, explaining that it seemed natural to take inspiration from musicians he admired as a way of ‘expanding his musical imagination’.

The septet consists of: Ørjan Hammer Vollvik (trumpet) Andri Schärli (sax) Roar Kjeldahl Bernsen (guitar) Eivind Austad (piano) Audun Humberset (percussion) Amund Nordstrøm (drums). As well as leading the septet Lossius is also a member of the Briotrio, described as ‘cozy jazz’ blending humour, spontaneity and American sounds. They’re also to be found on the AMP label.

The record begins with a brief introductory track that flows into the second tune ‘Shekinah’ where a cool Nordic theme converges with spiritual jazz that hints at the exotic soundscapes of Pharoah Sanders. There’s some wonderful sax and trumpet interplay and fine guitar work from Bernsen. ‘Epiphany’ follows, owing a heavy debt of gratitude to Miles Davis’ album Nefertiti. The addition of textural percussive elements further emphasizes the 60s vibe and helps to distinguish it from the Miles Davis album. Lossius explains he was inspired by both Miles Davis and John Coltrane for this track, Coltrane for the complex harmony and Miles for the interplay and melody. After plenty of references to Nefertiti, it continues with a phrase from Giant Steps, probably an obvious reference to sax players but one that I missed at first. Another ‘Interlude’ follows featuring the only vocal performance of the record, there’s a sense of religious exaltation in the singing, ending with the words ‘I hear the voices of angels’. ‘Rapture’ is apparently inspired by South African ‘Ghoema’ style music. When Lossius was living and studying in Cape Town he admired the sense of identity locals got from this music so adapted some of the themes with Norwegian folk harmonies and added jazz twists. ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is one of the few places on the album where the bass is near the top of the mix, the paired down feeling lets us hear what Lossius is capable of. The last full-length track is ‘Exaltation’ in which the trumpet meanders its way on an abstract journey. I didn’t quite feel it here, I thought the exaltation was more present on the vocal ‘Interlude’ I mentioned earlier. ‘Outro’ ends the album with a haunting piano solo from Austad, it’s all too brief and he fades out in his prime, perhaps that’s the point but just as I was really feeling it he was suddenly absent.

Seven Words for Ekstasia is a very decent debut that wears its influences proudly on its sleeve while shining a new light on some familiar musical themes.

James Read