On listening to the opening title track Midwest and you hadn’t read the sleeve notes you would think that this was just a straight ahead jazz album dominated by Mathias Eick’s pure tone with a great rhythm section led by Jon Balke on piano. Then the folk fiddling of Gjermund Larsen kicks in, and you quickly realise that this is something different. This highly melodic tribute to the North American Midwest was inspired by a gruelling tour starting on the West Coast and driving long distances every day. Eick started to get homesick but when they reached the rural countryside of the Midwest it started to remind him of the rich soil in the southeast of Norway where he grew up. Almost a million Norwegians left for North America by sea in 19th & early 20th centuries, and many of them settled in Dakota, bringing their music with them.
The album is an imaginary voyage from Hem, the village of his birth, to America. Gjermund’s violin, steeped in the folk tradition,and Eick's trumpet sing together beautifully throughout the album, with superb bass playing by Mats Eilertsen and the drums of Helge Andreas Norbakken hinting at North America tribal drums or buffalo hooves pounding across The plains. It would be difficult to pick out any stand-out tracks but Hem, Dakota & Fargo are perhaps the most memorable. A truly joyous recording and a real credit to the musicians, who are on top form here.
Mathias Eick – Trumpet
Gjermund Larsen – Violin
Jon Balke – Piano
Mats Eilertsen – Bass
Helge Andreas Norbakken - Drums