It is jazz, all right. But it is that kind of jazz that manages to flow in a natural, effortless way. The rigid canons of composition are refined by a clever approach to folk music, which in Land Míns Föður (The Land of My Father) ceases to be a mere echo in an otherwise contemporary context to become the lens through which relatively recent influences are filtered and acknowledged. Drummer Einar Scheving is one of the most prolific and praised musicians in Iceland today. His taking part in a myriad of projectsfrom saxophonist Joel Palsson's Horn (Flugur, 2010) to the elegantly theatrical eclecticism of singer Stevie Holland on More That Words Can Say (150 Music, 2006) has probably contributed to crafting and honing a style that is undoubtedly personal and heartfelt.
Land Míns Föður is first of all a disenchated tribute to a nation, Iceland, whose spirit is often stereotyped and seldom approached with a sufficient dose of realism. The title-track is, for instance, a rendition of a popular patriotic song written in 1944 by violinist Þórarinn Guðmundsson on a poem by Jóhannes úr Kötlum to celebrate the country's independence from Denmark that same year. Scheving's delivery is a smooth yet vibrant saxophone played by Óskar Guðjónsson (of Jagúar fame, on whose 2007 self-produced album, Shake It Good , Scheving provided the drums) that gently flows into yet another folk tune ("Hættu Að Gráta Hringaná").
If the aesthetic approach on the debut album, Cycle (Valrun, 2007), favoured a meditative modus operandi, the same can be said of the sophomore effort, but this time the tone is slightly darker, more melancholic although not pessimistic or, worse, discouraged. On the contrary, Scheving's sextet toys with subtlety and a variety of moods all contributing to the creation of an ambience that perfectly counterbalances the heavy-hearted feel of the old lullabies and songs.
Despite spending several years in the US, Scheving's approach to jazz remains strongly rooted to Europe and this is not only thanks to his interest for folk music. His taste for specific harmonic solutions and love for diluted tempos, in fact, bring to mind other names of the European scene such as drummer Eric Schaefer, but without the occasional harmonic idiosyncrasies which have made albums like Em(III) (ACT Music + Vision, 2008) little contemporary masterpieces. It is when the six vocalists make their appearances that the circle closes and the influence of folk music becomes even more apparent. The myths of the Edda have never appeared so close to contemporary music; their tales of Gods and destruction find their counterparts in modern poems on the beauty of the island (poet Steinn Steinarr's verses on "Afturhvarf") or simple lullabies like the oniric "Sofðu Unga Ástin Mín."
An album half-way between beauty and myth. A dream in minor key dedicated to Einar Scheving's land and to the memory of his father, Árni Scheving (1938-2007), Land Míns Föður is jazz is its simplest form. A work of art to remind us that, yes, art can be found in our memories without having to look too far away.
Nú vil ég enn í nafni þínu; Land míns föður / Hættu að gráta hringaná; Sorgardans; Dýravísur;
Afturhvarf; Draumalandið; Maístjarnan; Fósturjörð; Sofðu unga ástin mín; Jón Thoroddsen - In
Memoriam; Stríðið; Bíum bíum bambaló; Mamma ætlar að sofna.
Eyþór Gunnarsson: piano, Fender Rhodes (5, 8); Óskar Guðjónsson: tenor saxophone; Skúli
Sverrisson: electric bass, acoustic bass; Guðmundur Pétursson: electric guitar, acoustic guitar,
lap steel guitar and dobro; Davíð Þór Jónsson: hammond organ and Fender Rhodes, piano (5).
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