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Jacob Young: Lyricism and Elasticity

John Kelman By

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This is You

While Young didn't return to Norway permanently until '95, he recorded his first album, This is You, for the Norcd label, in '94, when he was home for the summer. An interesting blend of various styles, the album reflected Young's exposure to the great musical melting pot that is New York. "I had done professional gigs in Norway since '92," says Young, "and when I went back to Norway in the summers I'd do three or four concerts in Oslo, or a small tour. I had already played with [drummer] Per Oddvar Johansen, but never with [bassist] Terje Gewelt, who [saxophonist/producer] Bendik Hofseth brought in for the session. I also flew in [pianist/organist] Larry Goldings, who I had met at the New School; he's a few years older than me and had finished the year before I started, but he was hanging around and playing a lot with Peter Bernstein, who is a friend from my New York days and is one of my favourite guitar players.

"I think that This is You is not as focused as my other records," continues Young, "because there are so many genres going on. There's one swing tune, a bossa nova tune, a free tune, a straight eighths tune, a bluesy tune. I guess I didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I tried to do a little bit of everything. But I always had a predilection for lyricism, for melodies; that's been important to me since I started playing guitar and writing, humming, just trying to put together my own melodies or stretches of chords. And I still play the title song live sometimes. So I'm proud of it, there are things that I wish I could have done better, but I think it has some nice writing, some nice compositions."

Pieces of Time

For Young's next project, '97's Pieces of Time, released on the Norwegian Curling Legs label, he recorded with a group that he had been playing with on a regular basis, and the difference is palpable. The same sense of melodicism is evident, but there's a stronger sense of interplay and unity about the record that makes it a more compelling listen. The group features saxophonist Trygve Seim, who has gone on to record his own albums for ECM, keyboardist Vigleik Storaas, Per Oddvar Johansen on drums and bassist Mats Eilertsen, with whom Young continues to work to this day. "That was a working band," says Young. "We had done a few tours in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. We were all about the same age and knew each other, so Pieces of Time was definitely more of a group record.

"Trygve Seim was an old friend of mine from high school," Young continues, "and we've had some of the same influences and steps in our careers. I went to New York and he studied in Norway at the Trondheim Conservatory. He was a very familiar person to have in the group, both professionally and socially. Mats Eilertsen was very young when we started playing, I think he was only nineteen, and he was still a student at the conservatory. From '96 to '97 I had a gig every Thursday at a club in Oslo called "The Young Market," which was basically a session where I invited different players to play, ending with a jam session. But for the first hour we would prepare material for musicians that had basically never played together before. We would play songs, not just free improvisation. I was playing with this Norwegian drummer in a group called the Young Love Trio, and he had heard about Mats, and we flew him over for this gig with [trumpeter] Nils Petter Molvaer, and we went on and played some groove-oriented free, energetic music and he locked in right away.

While there is still stylistic diversity on Pieces of Time—including "Wonder Why," on which Young pays homage to one of his influences, Keith Jarrett's European Quartet, and "In a Subtle Way," with it's swinging hip hop-informed rhythm, songs including "When We're Talking" and "The Promise" demonstrate a stylistic approach that could have easily fitted into the ECM aesthetic. Young also began to augment his warm, clean electric tone with acoustic guitar, another foreshadowing of Evening Falls, where the record is split almost fifty-fifty between the two instruments.

Glow

For his third record, '01's Glow, also on Curling Legs, Young chose to use a more experimental approach, with a broader palette of sounds, including a three-piece horn section, resophonic guitar and more. " Glow is an album that I worked on much more," explains Young, "it was more arranged, heavier in a way. Pieces of Time is more about tunes we played as a group and we arranged them partly on tour, partly in the studio, but with Glow it's more mixed. It consists of three tracks for septet, recorded live at Rainbow Studio in Oslo, but the rest of the album was done in a smaller studio, where we did the rhythm tracks and then overdubbed additional elements. The initial tracks were recorded live as well; the four of us would play on a tune like "Cartoons," for instance, and then we'd record the four of us again on top of the first set of tracks, playing with or against each other. Then we would cut out some things, use others, and work a lot with effects; it was a very time consuming process."

But while Glow is more of a studio concoction, Young's compositional priorities remained. "The writing has always been the most important aspect of my records," Young says. "The melodies and tunes are what I look for when I listen to music and also when I write and make my own albums. That's the most basic and important thing."

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