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Mathias Eick: Ravensburg

Karl Ackermann By

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On his previous ECM release, Midwest (2015), trumpeter and composer, Mathias Eick plotted the course of his Norwegian ancestors to the heartland of America. Drawn from his own travels as well, Eick applies personal experiences and family lore once again on Ravensburg, named for the German town of his grandmother. Here the journey is closer to home and considers Eick's roots in Germany as well as Norway. The inspirations—as the song titles indicate—are family, friends and other close relationships whose memories endure.

The composition of the group is similar to Midwest in terms of instrumentation, if not personnel. Only percussionist Helge Norbakken remains from the previous quintet. Norbakken has worked with Eick since his ECM leader debut The Door, in 2008. His drum kit is unique: a low-tuned rototom—a drum with no shell and a variable pitch—home-made cymbals, African drums, brushwood bundles and more. The Ravensburg group expands to a sextet with the addition of a second drummer, Torstein Lofthus, who has progressive rock and jazz backgrounds and appeared on Eick's Skala (ECM, 2011) along with bassist Audun Erlien and pianist Andreas Ulvo. Violinist Håkon Aase is new to Eick's sphere but not to ECM, having played with Thomas Strønen's Time Is A Blind Guide.

The striking melancholy of "Family" opens with Ulvo's placid piano and gives way to Eick's breathy trumpet—somewhat reminiscent of Nils Petter Molvaer. A bit more buoyant—but still with an underlying sadness—is "Children" where Aase's violin produces a folky air and Eick contributes wordless vocalizing. "Friends" begins starkly—Ulvo and Eick then moderating the pace—and along with Norbakken, adding an element of abstraction. "August" and "For My Grandmothers" are appealing and discreet, both featuring excellent piano and trumpet solos. "Girlfriend" has a suite-like quality about it and contains an exceptional solo from Aase. While there are noteworthy individual contributions throughout, the emphasis is on group dynamics and it is here that Eick's vision plays out in vivid color.

Eick's compositions have an overall darkness about them though their sophistication and accents, the punctuation of bass and percussion, makes for a highly listenable blend of emotions, without jolting fluctuations. As with Midwest the music on Ravensburg is deeply atmospheric. When the violin is clearly present, it adds beautiful touches; the drummers (which of the two is sometimes difficult to discern) add a complexity that is in sharp contrast to the central mood, but always additive. Ravensburg is rich, welcoming and should be heard in full to be appreciated.

Track Listing: Family; Children; Friends; August; Parents; Girlfriend; Ravensburg; For My Grandmothers.

Personnel: Mathias Eick: trumpet, voice; Håkon Aase: violin; Andreas Ulvo: piano; Audun Erlien: electric bass; Torstein Lofthus: drums; Helge Andreas Norbakken: drums, percussion.

Title: Ravensburg | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: ECM Records

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