This gentle album sounds like the end of winter in search of spring and offers a sojourn well worth taking.
NXN Recordings NXN2014 (CD)
Ingi Bjarni Skulason (piano); Jakob Eri Myhre (trumpet); Merje Kägu (guitar); Daniel Andersson (bass); Tore Ljøkelsøy (drums)
Farfuglar is an album of quiet and focused moments. Even in the rolling crescendos that punctuate each piece, each song never loses its sense of quiet. This gives the music on a Farfuglar an insistent presence that rewards equally close and quiet listening. Farfuglar is at times haunting, particularly on the album’s title track.
The music on Farfuglar is never afraid to take unexpected turns away from traditional jazz into music borrowed from Scandinavian folk music and translate it back into the bands’ collective jazz vocabulary. This music has an ambiance that absorbs the listener in the conversation between the instruments more than the specific instruments themselves.
Thyding – Starts with a steady rhythmic march toward its destination before instruments subtly explore tier harmonies and melodic counterpoints with each other.
Bjogun a dogun employs Middle Eastern modalities from Merje Kägu’s guitar and the trumpet playing it’s soft and sustained that caps the song with occasional staccato bursts of sounds. Like so many songs on the album, this is a study in contrasts that always support the other musicians in the quintet and the song itself.
Thad Sem Er gives a piece of music that rises and falls on this piece each instrument setting a different mood as they shift temps and timbres. Its ending evolves into a sonata-like piano movement.
When Holiday Really Begins is a joyful rhythmic march followed by a descending piano that climbs back into its rhythmic celebration. Each refrain of the main melody is more jubilant until the music must back away from its intensity.
On the title track Farfuglar, the guitar quietly picks out the melody before the piano and horns challenge its melodic line. It moves into quiet places driven by Andersson’s melancholy and bowed bass before the whole band moves the song into fresh territory. As it does throughout the album, Myhre’s trumpet brightens the song’s mood.
Knowing Without Knowing – An aching song that sounds like searching until Bjarni’s piano makes it sparkle as if the searching isn’t necessary.
Ad Fijuga begins with a precise duo of piano and guitar. The instruments build and roll off each other before confidently restating their melodic theme. The song closes with the guitar ringing by itself and is another exercise in building on quiet cross-genre modalities.
The album closes with the lovely piano solo Mamma Engill that says so much in its few notes.
The musicians in the Ingi Bjarni Quintet work in their sound knots that echo off each other and reflect each other while never deviating from their individual paths. Their distinct musical personalities blend into the whole of each song. The title Farfuglar translates to migratory birds and it’s easy to picture this band as those birds flying across the landscape collecting and distributing seed note musical ideas with which to create their music. This gentle album sounds like the end of winter in search of spring and offers a sojourn well worth taking.
Reviewed by Ben Miller