It's no wonder that Matthíasson's lyrical and eminently likable debut recording exhibits such a classic American feel. From the plaintively circular piano signature that introduces "Nordurljos" ("Northern Lights") to the fusion breakdown taking "Aurora No. 2" and the album to its exciting conclusion, Matthíasson and his cadre of fellow countrymen/sidemen are learning their lessons and freely expounding upon them.
A case in point is the album's second cut, "Pleasant Avenue." With concise, propulsive echoes of LaFaro and pianist Kjartan Valdermarsson's playing behind him akin to Bill Evans, the tune vividly expands into a charging blueprint of staccato ensemble blasts and solos, notably from pent-up trumpeter Snorri Sigurðarson and the bassist.
"Twenty-Four Seven" and "Nordurljos" quickly establish Matthíasson's resonant ease in writing invigorating horn passages, executed with fluid clarity and youthful vigor by trumpeter Sigurðarson and woodwinds Joel Palsson and Helgi R Heiðarsson. "Inactive Pureness" is a blast of pure late '60s jazz/rock with hotly reverberated trumpet, powered by drummer Magnús Trygvason Eliassen. The drummer also flashes Zeppelin-esque chops on "Festi," a thrillingly compact rock/jazz hybrid that will prick the ears for more. Arora is a vibrant and engaging debut.
Nordurljos; Pleasant Avenue; Twenty-four Seven; Inactive Pureness; I sound hymn; Hjaleigan; Nordan gar; Festi;
Aurora No. 1; Aurora No. 2.
Sigmar Matthiasson: bass; Joel Palsson: woodwinds; Helgi R Heiðarsson: woodwinds; Snorri Sigurðarson: trumpet
flugelhorn; Kjartan Valdermarsson: piano and Rhodes; Magnús Trygvason Eliassen: drums.