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Mathias Eick: The Lyrical Dimension

Mathias Eick: The Lyrical Dimension
Adriana Carcu By

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Norwegian trumpeter/composer Mathias Eick comes from a musical space that, during the last 30 years, has rightfully earned itself the attributes of a genre. The singularity of his tone, marked by the lyrical quality of his phrasing and underlined by a melancholic solemnity, adds a particular note a the Nordic jazz tradition he shares with Jan Garbarek, Arve Henriksen and Nils Petter Molvaer. A complex musician, Eick also plays double bass, guitar, piano and vibraphone—instruments which continuously stimulate his creativity.

Throughout his life, Eick has been involved in numerous projects, including work with drummer Manu Katche, bassist Lars Danielsson and Finnish pianist/harpist Iro Haarla. He is also a longtime collaborator with the experimental Jaga Jazzist, with whom he toured North America in 2011. Together with his quintet, Eick has recently released his second album as a leader, Skala (ECM 2011), on which he furthers the reflexive line of expression opened in 2008 with The Door (ECM), bringing a new rhythmical dimension which—through the use of two drum sets augmenting the sonic space—follows his intention to emulate the swing created by Keith Jarrett's European quartet from the 1970s.

All About Jazz: Do you recall the first time you heard music?

Mathias Eick: The first time I heard music was, of course, in our house, because I come from a very musical family. But what I remember very well and what stayed with me, is the first time I heard live music. It was at a Weather Report concert my father took me to. I still remember that, at some point, he was carrying me away from the stage because the sound was too loud. That music made a great impression on me.

AAJ: What is your musical background?

ME: I started playing classical piano when I was five and started with the trumpet at six. We had a music room in our house with all kinds of instruments and, as we had no TV, every time the other kids went home to watch TV, I went to that room and played an instrument. We had a vibraphone, a piano, guitars, trumpets, and a French horn in there. We were five kids and all of us were playing at least one instrument. My father was really into jazz and was also playing all kinds of instruments, and my mother sang in choirs. It is still like that. Last night I was visiting them and my mother went to her choir and my father went to rehears with his swing jazz band.

AAJ: Are there any stations in your musical development you would like to comment upon?

ME: Up to the age of eleven I was listening mostly to traditional jazz like Dixieland and swing stuff, and early Chet Baker. Then a guy gave me a record with Clifford Brown and Max Roach, so I started listening to bebop for like five years. I developed through the different periods of music. Later, in my teens, I was listening to Pat Metheny, and also discovered Joni Mitchell and Jaco Pastorius. In those days pop music like Steely Dan also exploded in a way.

AAJ: What instrument were you playing at that time?

ME: At that time I was playing double bass. When I was ten I used to play trumpet with my father's band, but then I started with double bass and had gigs that helped me make some pocket money. That was easier achieved with a double bass than with a trumpet. Then I started studying music. It was a clear thing that I was going to go to the Trondheim Music Academy. My elder brother was already studying there and although there was a period when I was wondering about going to Berklee [College of Music, in Boston, USA], I knew that it was better to stay in Norway because of the network you were able to build with the other musicians. And besides, it is a really good school. So I studied trumpet and also double bass at the Trondheim Music Academy.

AAJ: Was there a clear line of development along which you decided what instrument you were going to focus on?

ME: In a way the trumpet has always been a part of me, like an extension of my body; that was clear to me pretty early, because it felt quite natural. It was the closest thing to my heart.

AAJ: You have a very wide musical range and are involved in more parallel projects, like Jaga Jazzist and singer/songwriter Thomas Dybdahl. How do these collaborations affect your own musical persona?

ME: In the time when I was studying music, I learned that you had to play a lot to find yourself and your own path in music and in the music business, so I decided to play as much as possible for a period of ten years. I was involved with seven, eight or even ten bands at one time. It was quite stressful, but with each of them I saw the opportunity to learn something new. During the last couple of years I have been scaling down, so now I only play with my own band and Jaga Jazzist, which is of course a very special project. We are like childhood friends, we've played together for 15 years and they are the most ambitious band I have ever been in. We wanted to rule the world in a way: travel everywhere; do the biggest tours; the biggest arrangements. That also taught me how to run a band, so four years ago, when I started my own band, I knew what to expect, what to appreciate, and how to manage it. It is like running a small company.

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