Norwegian high enerjy acoustic jazz outfit prove they're a force to be reckoned with...
Peter Marsh 2004
Those Norwegians are at it again. Here's yet another band of young, prodigiously talented musicians who've produced an incredibly good record that ranks with anything coming out of the rest of Europe, or anywhere else for that matter. This lot are all new names to me, save for Jaga Jazzist trumpeter Matthias Eick, but their music's a million miles away from the nu-jazz/electronica hybrids of that outfit or the likes of Wesseltoft, Wibutee or Supersilent (to name but three).
Instead, Motif deliver straightahead acoustic jazz with a power and conviction shared by fellow countrymen Atomic (whose debut remains one of my favourite jazz records of the last five years or so). Like that outfit, Motif's sound may not be startlingly original, but the execution of their music is strong enough to win you over immediately. In fact, it's quite hard to pin their influences down; in a blindfold test you'd probably conclude they weren't American, but that's as far as it goes.
Motif are led by bassist Ole Morton Vagan, whose rapport with drummerHakon Mjaset Johansenforms the bedrock of the music. Both are formidable talents and give the music the kind of rockist kick that Dave Holland pioneered in his partnerships with Marvin Smith and Billy Kilson. The album's barely kicked off when Johansen blows in with a volcanic display of soloing worthy of Atomic's Paal Nilssen-Love, while elsewhere the pair cook up some solid, punchygrooves (notably at the start of the feisty "Git On Up".
The rhythm section's completed by pianist David Thor Jonsson, who likes big, plangent chords (think Herbie Hancock or early Keith Jarrett) and furiously percussive, angular runs (think Don Pullen or a hyperactive Andrew Hill). Eick displays his flair for darting, lyrical flights reminsicent of Kenny Wheeler (isome of the slower numbers have a definite Wheeler-esque flavour), while Atle Nymo cherrypicks from the tenor tradition, with hints of Rollins, Joe Henderson and a few others.
While Motif aren't short of improvisational talent, they're not a blowing band in the usual sense of the word. Vagan's compositions are restless, intricate yet chunky concoctions, constructed with a persuasive logic and peppered with hummable riffs. They even chuck in a cover of a tune by Norwegian alt-rockers Motorpsycho, which at least makes a change from Radiohead, and the whole album is despatched with an unpretentious, chewy energy which makes it (for my money anyway) one of the most enjoyable albums in this vein I've heard for a while. Go get it.