By Tomas Lauvland Pettersen
Translated by Christian Lysvåg
After an unusually warm start of the season winter is back in New York with sub-zero temperatures and a biting wind. But the interior of the city’s big Hilton Hotel is far from cold, crowded as it is by the almost 8000 delegates that have gathered for the 34th Annual International Association for Jazz Education’s International Conference.
The Nordic countries continue a partnership initiated at last year’s conference (at which Trondheim Jazz Orchestra led by Erlend Skumsvoll shook the house with Chick Chorea) and are very noticeable at this year’s event with a big and conspicuous stand.
But the big event from a Norwegian point of view was of course Wednesday’s awarding of the International Jazz Festivals’ Organization’s (IJFO) International Award for New Talent 2007 to trumpeter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Mathias Eick.
In response to this honour Eick delivered a magnificent concert, the debut of his new trio format, which comprises the veterans Jon Balke and Audun Kleive. The venue was almost filled when Eick entered the scene and the audience’s response was swift and warm. The band appeared highly focused and demonstrated a rare presence on stage. Performing music specially written by Eick with his new companions in mind, the concert bequeathed to the audience a vivid and lasting experience. Open compositions with beautiful and immediate trumpet melodies, restrained yet harmonically complex improvisations on grand piano, Nordlead and Rhodes, and not least dazzlingly dynamic drumming, generated a victorious expression.
The Norwegian club- and festival crowds have a special treat coming their way; check out this band at the first opportunity!
A somewhat worn out but apparently content awardee receives the press backstage at the Hilton. After a long day comprising photo-sessions, sound-checks, award ceremony and debut concert Mathias Eick is finally able to wind down and accept the acclaim from journalists and IJAE delegates.
“Now the ship has reached port” says Eick, admirably handling a composite group of journalists, family, co-musicians, girlfriend and thrilled spectators. “I’ve been working towards this day for a long time. January 10th has been inscribed in my appointment book as the inauguration of a new era. Tonight’s show was the debut of my new trio and also my premiere as a solo artist. In 2007 I will focus completely on being a solo artist and on my new band with Jon Balke and Audun Kleive. The IJFO International Award for New Talent really sets the scene for me now that I embark on my own career. The award entails a minimum of six concerts at important festivals in North America and Europe, and most likely these shows will lead to further engagements at clubs and festivals. I also have a contract with ECM for a record to be released within the next few years. Whether this will be a Mathias Eick trio release is still pending. The concert here in New York was recorded, and if the result is up to standard it might become a record.
Mathias Eick trio is distinctly different from the other bands and artists that do showcases at IAJE. The majority of the American ensembles are, as expected perhaps, faithful to tradition and rather loath of experimentation. When asked how he thinks the audience responds to his trio’s free improvisation and open structures Eick responds: “I think they benefit enormously from hearing something that sidesteps the tradition. I just talked to someone from the audience who related that it was a huge kick to go from seeing an excellent but very traditional salsa band, to a band like our trio, setting forth a completely different musical package. In my opinion improvisation should claim the lead role and substitute the almost insane emphasis on a faithful interpretation of an old repertoire.
The Nordic joint initiative at IAJE is called “Nordic Jazz Now”. Norway is represented by Norwegian Jazz Forum and the Music Information Centre together with important festivals such as Molde International Jazz Festival and Stavanger’s MaiJazz, as well as by single delegates representing the media and the musicians themselves.
Mathias Eick, Jazz bassist, Trumpetist