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Copenhagen Diaries documents Norwegian, Bergen-based guitarist Svein Rikard Mathisen experiences while studying at the acclaimed Rhythmic Music Conservatory in the Danish capital, an era described by him as a "twilight zone" where "curiosity meets nightmares and angst meets caffeine." Fortunately, Matisen experiences were processed into an appealing yet complex compositions, reflecting the dramatic emotional turmoil of that seminal time.
Mathisen core quartet feature Swedish pianist William Larsson and double bassist Paul Hinz and Danish drummer Andreas Fryland, supported on three pieces by Danish saxophonist Aske Drasbæk and on two pieces by Norwegian vocalist Maylen Rusti. Mathisen, who also plays in the Norwegian funk-fusion outfit Ninjabeat, has a mature and commanding sound of his own, rooted in the American school of jazz guitar, echoing at times early Pat Metheny and the singing voicing of Ben Monder. His intricately crafted, original compositions flow with fast shifting, inventive ideas that gravitate toward complex harmonic structures, always suggesting a strong melodic vein and always revolving around tight and emphatic interplay.
"Nightmares" is the the most arresting composition. Slowly sketching a fragile, emotional territory, intensified by the gentle wordless vocals of Rusti and the whispering sax of Drasbæk. Mathisen leading guitar hints about the inner turmoil with a reserved, gentle voice. His affinity with pianist Larsson is highlighted in their beautiful duo "Hedmark," referring to the Eastern part of Norway where Mathisen was born. This strong affinity is later cemented also on the moving ballad, "A moon on a sunny day."
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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