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Mathias Eick Skala

(180g Vinyl LP)

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Mathias Eick Skala on 180g LP

Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick's 2011 album Skala extends the concept and the panoramic sweep of his ECM debut The Door (2008). "It's wider and bigger in all directions," Eick says. Skala calls upon the services of more musicians – including, at times, two drummers - and there is more detail in the arrangements. What hasn't changed is the emphasis on the lyrical soloist at the center of the production. Eick's elegant trumpet now has a larger space in which to sing.

Skala was crafted like a pop production. Where most ECM albums are famously completed in three or four days, this project began with five weeks in Oslo's Cabin Recorders Studio. At the outset, Mathias was mostly alone, sketching demos on a variety of instruments, then inviting players in as needed. The project moved on to Bugge Wesseltoft's studio, vibraphone was added at Pooka Studio, and the album was completed at Rainbow Studio where it was mixed by Mathias, co-producer Manfred Eicher and engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug. Skala pools new and older compositions, all written by Mathias, and inspired, he says, "by music from classical to pop."

The title tune is one that the trumpeter says has been following him "for many years," its network of inspirations including Sting's 1993 song "Shape of My Heart." It is one of two pieces on the album to incorporate the expressive saxophone of Tore Brunborg. "Edinburgh" was written in the Scottish city, but draws inspiration from Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and the plaintive cry of Jan Garbarek's sax. Eick describes "June" as "a light and peaceful song, a reminiscence of summer days." The piece incorporates the harp of classical player Sidsel Walstad, currently of the Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra.

"Oslo," the album's most propulsive tune, is a "song of the city. It's a groove-directed piece," with Radiohead amongst its pop references. "Oslo" also "brings the idea of the two drummers into play. It sets them loose." The piece also includes significant contributions from keyboardist Morten Qvenild, best known for his work with singer Susanna Wallumrød. "Joni" is, of course, for Joni Mitchell, whose work Eick has long admired. "Biermann" is named for the Oslo house that Eick rents, a place once owned by German merchant J. F. Biermann, back in the 19th century.

"The Day After" references the 1970s, and is influenced by sources as diverse as the Jarrett/Garbarek Belonging collaboration and the pounding rock piano of Elton John. "Epilogue" develops "from the simple idea of softness meeting raw energy," as Mathias' tender trumpet soliloquy gives way to typhoon-strength drumming from Torstein Lofthus.

Mathias Eick, trumpet, vibraphone, electric guitar, double-bass
Tore Brunborg, tenor saxophone
Andreas Ulvo, piano
Morten Qvenild, keyboards
Audun Erlien, electric bass
Torstein Lofthus, drums
Gard Nilssen, drums
Sidsel Walstad, harp

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1. Skala
2. Edinburgh
3. June
4. Oslo
5. Joni
6. Beirmann
7. Day After
8. Epilogue

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