All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

835

Jan Gunnar Hoff: Magma

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Keyboardist Jan Gunnar Hoff may not have the international visibility of fellow keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft, but with a growing discography dating back to the mid-1990s and including, most recently, the powerfully fusion-esque Jungle City (Alessa, 2009), with fellow countryman/bassist Per Mathisen and ex-Weather Report percussionist/drummer Alex Acuna, that deserves to change. At the core of the eminently accessible yet equally deep Magma is a Norwegian posse that includes drummer Audun Kleive and bassist Bjørn Kjellemyr—two-thirds of guitarist Terje Rypdal's internationally renowned Chasers trio—as well as trumpeter Mathias Eick, whose 2008 ECM debut, The Door was one of the year's best.



A compelling blend of Nordic lyricism, fusion energy, and a hint of Latin, Hoff's recruitment of Portuguese singer Maria João—paradoxically fragile and avant-tinged —makes compositions like "Earth Song" reminiscent of early-1990s Pat Metheny Group. Guitarist Mike Stern might appear to be a ringer, but he's no stranger, having toured with Kleive as a leader and as part of vibraphonist Mike Mainieri's Steps Ahead. Here he delivers some of his best playing in years; perhaps being outside the comfort zone of his own writing, he's pushed into new areas that eliminate some of his inherent predictability. Certainly, on the atmospheric title track, he sounds both like him and unlike anything he's done before. Hoff's melancholic melody, doubled by Stern and Eick, creates a haunting set-opener that acts almost like an overture of what's to come.



But the following track, "Life," quickly distances itself from any suggestion of Nordic cool; a bright, funky tune that provides a shifting harmonic context for powerful solos from Eick and Stern—bolstered by Hoff's overdriven electric piano—that demonstrate their individual approaches to weaving through and around changes. Hoff closes the tune with an even fierier, Jan Hammer-esque synth solo—a modal excursion over a visceral pedal point that ratchets up even further when he kicks in a dissonant harmonizer, delivering some of Magma's hottest moments. Stern matches Eick's economic melodism, delivering some of his most poignant playing in years on Hoff's gospel-tinged ballad, "Journey Home."



Norwegian guitar wizard Eivind Aarset guests on a handful of tracks, playing far more guitaristically than on his own albums, like the sonically expansive Sonic Codex (Jazzland, 2007). Hoff's solo builds with inevitability on "Earth Song," supported by some very Cuong Vu-like atmospherics from Eick, but Aarset then changes the complexion entirely with a heavily distorted, whammy bar-driven solo that's true to his Rydal roots, yet demonstrates a harmonic sophistication less overtly heard in the context of his own more textural work.



Throughout, Hoff's writing and playing possesses an almost pop-like clarity and concision, but with a far richer vernacular. Released on the Norwegian Grappa label, Magma's lack of international distribution is the only thing preventing this vividly appealing album of attention-grabbing writing and even more convincing playing from attaining Hoff the broader audience he clearly deserves.


Track Listing: Magma; Life; Journey Home; Stone; Maria's Intro; Winds; Earth Song; Time; Light Years; Karingana; Ghiculo.

Personnel: Jan Gunnar Hoff: piano, keyboards; Mike Stern: guitar; Maria João: vocals; Audun Kleive: drums; Mathias Eick: trumpet; Bjørn Kjellemyr: bass: Eivind Aarset: guitar (6, 7, 10, 11); Helge Norbakken: percussion (5-7, 10, 11).

Title: Magma | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Grappa

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
 

Fly North

Megafon
2014

buy
Fly North!

Fly North!

Losen Records
2014

buy
 

Living

Megafon
2013

buy
Magma

Magma

Grappa
2010

buy
 

Magma

Megafon
2008

buy
 

In Town

Megafon
2003

buy

Related Articles

Read Shades CD/LP/Track Review
Shades
by Doug Collette
Published: October 20, 2018
Read Putumayo Presents: Ska Around the World CD/LP/Track Review
Putumayo Presents: Ska Around the World
by Jim Trageser
Published: October 20, 2018
Read Pattern Recognition CD/LP/Track Review
Pattern Recognition
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 20, 2018
Read Just This CD/LP/Track Review
Just This
by Chris Mosey
Published: October 20, 2018
Read Live at Sowieso CD/LP/Track Review
Live at Sowieso
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 20, 2018
Read Displaced Diaspora CD/LP/Track Review
Displaced Diaspora
by Chris May
Published: October 19, 2018
Read "The 1960 Sessions with George Duvivier and Max Roach" CD/LP/Track Review The 1960 Sessions with George Duvivier and Max Roach
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: November 1, 2017
Read "Lello's Italian Job Volume 2" CD/LP/Track Review Lello's Italian Job Volume 2
by Jerome Wilson
Published: May 1, 2018
Read "Wherever You're Starting From" CD/LP/Track Review Wherever You're Starting From
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 21, 2018
Read "Origin Suite" CD/LP/Track Review Origin Suite
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 5, 2018
Read "Public Access / Headline / Crossings" CD/LP/Track Review Public Access / Headline / Crossings
by John Kelman
Published: March 25, 2018
Read "The Subject Tonight Is Love" CD/LP/Track Review The Subject Tonight Is Love
by Jerome Wilson
Published: February 26, 2018