German poet and musician Oswald von Wolkenstein (circa 1377-1445) made sure his legacy was secure by having his works compiled into collections during his lifetime. While he was certainly the author of the texts, it is less clear how many of the pieces, which number over 130, include his original music, and how many had his texts applied to preexisting works. In any case, it's an intriguing and attractive body of work, and this collection of 18 of his pieces, plus three other works, makes a fine introduction to his legacy.
Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick makes his ECM debut as a leader with this set, which features keyboardist Jon Balke and a guest appearance from Stian Carstensen - usually an accordionist, but here playing that jazz-band rarity, the pedal-steel guitar. Eick (who also plays vibes and guitar) has played with everybody from the pioneering Trygve Seim collective to Chick Corea, psychedelic group Motorpsycho and contemporary jazz-rock band Jaga Jazzist. His silky, unbrasslike sound is ideally suited to this undulating groove-landscape, and pianist Balke's apposite fills and asides help give the music a collective fluency. But there's more angularity in the rough offbeats and low keyboard grunts under Eick's airy lines on the funky Stavanger, the stately Cologne Blues is like a slowed-down Carla Bley piece (with Carstensen's steel guitar shimmering beneath it, and a probing Balke solo), and there's a folk song lilt to the mid-tempo Williamsburg. A lot of it is slow tone-poetry, but Eick's rather mournful, puffs-of-air sound is pretty captivating.
Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick opts for a different approach on Midwest. Four years after the song-like Skala, his sophomore ECM date that has attained "classic" status in European critical circles, he employs notions of history, folk tradition, and dislocation. This album was inspired by Eick's time spent playing the American continent; his tour began on the West Coast. When he entered the rural, upper Midwest and encountered its vast open spaces, he began to feel a sense of "home." He later learned that over the past two centuries of immigration, over a million Norwegians had settled there. After conceiving a "road" album that would begin in Hem, the village of his birth, and traverse the ocean to America, Eick enlisted violinist Gjermund Larsen (a folk musician who has contributed to Christian Wallumrød's ECM recordings), pianist Jon Balke, double bassist Mats Eilertsen, and percussionist Helge Norbakken. The compositions are all lyrical, in typical Eick fashion, but with Larsen they take on a rougher, more earthen quality.
With the breakup of his trio responsible for the superb Baboon Moon (Sula, 2011), it's been a fair question to wonder: what's next for Nils Petter Molvær? One possible answer is certainly 1/1, the Norwegian trumpeter's debut with German multi- instrumentalist and influential techno producer Moritz von Oswald and his nephew, Laurens. The trio's debut performance at Kristiansand, Norway's 2013 Punkt Festival, while strong, was largely misleading; the show certainly occupied some of 1/1's more ethereal territory, but Molvær and his partners also traveled to far more beat-driven, danceable terrain.