If jazz can be considered America's gift to the worlda music genre proven absorbent of local influences and capable of being recreated with every performance in every climatethen the brand of Latin jazz of Icelandic bassist Tómas R. Einarsson can be considered an extension of that same gift, second generation and once removed. Iceland, climatically and culturally, would readily seem an odd source for the humid sonics of expertly rendered Latin clave, but it is: illustrating the pan-ownership of music, it belongs to everyone.
While Einarsson is not new to these pages, he is neither a household name. Born in 1953 in Blönduós, located in the north of Iceland, he grew up in Dalabyggð. Einarsson studied at Hamrahlid College in Reykjavík before taking up the double bass while reading history and Spanish at the University of Iceland. The bassist has been active in the studio since 1989, leading or being featured on some 27 recordings. Einarsson became interested in Latin jazz in the early 2000s, devoting a lion's share of his compositional and performance attention to the sub-genre.
The present Latínball í Búðardal is a live recording captured in the Icelandic village of Búðardal in 2014. Einarsson led a nonet featuring all local talent. The results reveal all that is attractive in Latin music: the sensual sway that moves through songs that smile at all tempi. The performance opens with "Títómas" sung with robust pleasure by the band's conga player and percussionist Sigtryggur Baldursson, featuring the tart trumpet of Kjartan Hákonarson and percussive piano of Davíð Þór Jónsson. "Bassanótt" elbows its angular way to the front, pushed by the percussion concussion of Baldursson and drummer Matthías MD Hemstock and featuring the slinky guitar of Ómar Guðjónsson.
Einarsson's composing and musical leadership accentuates the intense ensemble nature of the performance by nailing down a solid rhythmic foundation, percussion driven above all. This is happy music not intended to be enjoyed sitting still. It is meant to cause the listener's head to bob, shoulder to dip and legs to splay in a heated abandon of movement so much a part of our unconscious that it manifests naturally and without warning. Is that not a wonderful way to experience music? Einarsson shows us the way.
Títómas; Bassanótt; Hægt en bítandi; Mambó fyrir tíu tær;
Spjallað við bændur; Sæll og glaður; Dakíri; Janúar; Þú ert;
Havana; Hjarta mitt; Havanablús; Laugar; Kúbansk;a Stolin