Øra Fonagram: OF211

Øyvind Mathisen: trumpet; Eirik Hegdal: C melody saxophone, bass clarinet; Erik Johannessen: trombone; Karl Hjalmar: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Iver Cardas: guitar; Erlend Vangen Kongtrop: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone; Joakin Rainer Petersen: piano; Alexander Riris: double bass; Martin Heggli Mellem: drums.

Recorded September 8th and 9th, 2021 by Jo Ranheim at Øra Studio, Trondheim.

Adding two more musicians to expand ØyvindLAND to a nonet offers Mathisen an even richer palette with which to experiment. In the liner notes he acknowledges the debt he owes to Monk, Mingus and Andrew Hill in his writing for this recording. Over the 6 months of intense writing and rehearsal, these were artists to which he returned.

Some of the debt is obvious, with titles such as ‘Mingus’, track 2, and ‘Thelonius i Modus’, track 5. But their influence also sits within and across the pieces. The opening piano lines of ‘Fat Monkey’, track 6, are such a sincere homage to Monk that you wonder that you haven’t heard the bars before. But Mathisen is too honest a composer to rehash other people’s work and the recording is too vibrant and creative to need to fall back on standards or cover versions.

What I particularly liked is the ways in which Mathisen brings the horns together in the sort of ragged unison so characteristic of Mingus’ bands, and has piano lines and disjointed rhythms that echo Monk, and embraces the sophistication of Andrew Hill’s compositions (I was constantly reminded of ‘Passing Ships’, one of Hill’s best known pieces for nonet as I listened to this set).

What is particularly impressive is that room he leaves for the soloists to immerse themselves in the music without overpowering either the rhythms or harmonies, so that there are delightfully melodic solos in each tune and carefully managed ensemble playing that captures that detail and post-bop complexities of the tunes.

This is not to say that the music is limited by these influences. ‘Humlen’, track 4, carries the hint of Mingus’ more discordant bars but also, as with Mingus, delves back into the earliest roots of jazz and deconstructs the tonalities into something is both contemporary and unsettling.