Saturday, July 5, 2008

Mathias Eick - The Door (ECM, 2008) ***

Dear Mathias,

I think you have delivered a beautiful album, and on ECM no less. Many young musicians surely envy you. I hope it sells well, and from the other reviews I've read about this CD, it won't surprise me that it does. You are a great trumpeter, with a velvety sound, and you have good musical ideas, as you already demonstrated in other bands. You got some great international awards for your trumpet-playing, and rightly so. Your band of fellow Norwegians on this album is good : great instrumentalists and musicians : Audun Kleive on drums, Jon Balke on piano and Audun Erlien on bass, with pedal steel guitarist Stian Carstensen on a few tracks.

You don't know me. I'm an old man, you're still young. Allow me to give you some advice. At moments when I was listening to your album, I got the following impression. That you walked around your living room and came to the conclusion that live is OK. That's the feeling I have when listening to "The Door". A feeling of contentment. Nice, friendly, and carefully crafted music. Everything is in place, neatly organised. No conflict. No pain. A kind of sadness maybe. A little melancholy. And you're only 28 years old.

What I can suggest is that you leave the house you're in now, go out into the world. Look around, and see what really makes you angry. And believe me, there is more than enough to make you rebel and revolt. But don't forget to watch out for joy and beauty too.

Then have a deep look inside, and see what other feelings you might have. Is there no frustration, no fear, no anger, no joy, no excitement? Is there only melancholy? At 28?

Then think of how your instrument could express those feelings. Tear it out, rip it out, blow it out, from outside, from inside!

And last but not least, think about which musical language is best suited to convey all this : the sounds, rhythms, maybe even the instruments still need to be discovered to do that. Make the language. Don't rely on what exists. It's kind of stale.

Don't let yourself be harnessed by the ECM sound. Don't let yourself be harnessed by concepts developed by others (NPM, Truffaz, Stockhausen, ...). Don't let yourself be sucked into atmospheric mood music, which surely pleases wider audiences, but which is a dead-end street, both artistically and career-wise. "Aftenposten", one of your country's leading newspapers called your album "tasteful", which it certainly is, but it's also a description which should send shivers down your spine.

You're a great musician, a great trumpeter.

Don't rely on the success this album surely deserves. I know this doesn't sound friendly, but friendliness is not what life is about, nor is art.

Do your own thing. I hope the income from this album will give you more freedom. Freedom to explore. To go out there. And to bring us back excellent music.

I wish you the best,

stef


© stef

3 comments:

Alexander Otth said...

Hi Stef,

You gave Mathias Eick a very good piece of advice, but I don't agree with you. This young man has his chops together, as you said, and also a very definite musical idea. Read, if you will, the interview he gave to the German Jazz Podium, September edition, just out now. He knows what he does and does not need to bellow out his revolt to the world. In my opinion, he is very much in tune with today's world, but choses, for the time being, not to impose one more angry voice upon us, but more soothing sound. This also does well and, in my humble opinion, much more that loud anger.

Cheers from Switzerland - Alexander (52)

stef said...

Thanks Alexander for your reaction. I do not want to force him to become angry. I also want more joy. I want more emotions than just melancholy because it sells well.

I want music to be real.

Dave Sumner said...

I very much enjoyed The Door. I thought Eick's assimilation of pedal steel guitar was pretty brilliant. The Door had some emotional depth to it, too. But Stef's advice/warning to Eick was certainly apt, and could've been directed at any number of the musicians that make ECM their home.

Which brings us to Eick's current release Skala, which comes off as a bit over-processed. And while I think there's a whole lot of sadness masked beneath a smooth veneer, I can't help but get suspicious at times that Skala's emotions are a bit superficial.

This does seem to be what Stef was warning about.