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Album Review

Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær made his small mark on fans and critics alike in the United States with his fine pair of ECM recordings. After a couple of years working in Europe, he returned to the release scene in the U.S. with An American Compilation in June of 2006. That disc was a selection of tracks from this album, his remix disc, and live cuts of tunes from the ECM period. In fact, ER is being issued simultaneously with Streamer, the live CD. Molvær is now on the Thirsty Ear imprint and these recordings are being issued via the label's Blue Series, which is curated by Matthew Shipp. Some have questioned whether the trumpeter and composer's work is actually "jazz." Interestingly, the Europeans don't give it a second thought. Who cares anyway? What the tracks on ER point to is what a compelling musician and writer Molvær is. In association with guitarist Eivind Aarset, bassist Ingebrigt Flaten, drummer Rune Arnesen, vocalist Sidsel Endresen, and a host of other sidemen who do everything from programming to organic percussion to playing pianos and other keyboards, Molvær has created a dreamy, seductive, and utterly compelling brand of new electronically kissed jazz. Rhythms are everywhere to be found, from drums and percussion instruments to loops and samples. Molvær's trumpet is warm, rounded, played sparely. He's not looking for fire; he's content with the smoldering smoke. Check tracks like the utterly beguiling "Only These Things Count," fronted by the trumpeter and Endresen's gorgeous yet plaintive vocal. On "Darker," the trumpeter's melody is the only thing that keeps the track in a groove as cross-cutting — yet sparsely programmed — loops cross hairs in the middle. Aarset's guitar playing is heavy on atmosphere and void of any instrumental masturbation disguised as guitar heroics. Elsewhere, such as on the shimmering "Water," Endresen's all but wordless vocals in three ranges appear and slip into the ether, and Molvær's trumpet is more reminiscent of Jon Hassell. Rhythmic invention is created despite the programming. Dynamics shift and flow with rhythmic tensions, and the whole thing feels like an enchanting dream. The set concludes with the spaced-out and melodically inventive "Dancer," where drones of trumpet, keyboards, and guitar are matched by organic percussion, a drum kit, and vinyl channeling. The drums and percussion instruments chant their rhythms as Molvær floats around them with a skeletal yet pronounced melody. He's the singer in the tune as Aarset hovers, gracing the proceedings with another sonic dimension. In sum, it's a gorgeous set and one of Molvær's best. ER is a welcome return, and hopefully listeners won't have to wait years to get caught up on his activities from now on.


Born: 1960 in Sula, Norway

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Avant-garde jazz trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær was born on the small Norwegian island of Sula in 1960, and though he learned a lot playing in local bands, in 1979 he chose to leave his hometown to study at the conservatory in Trondheim. As a member of the nu jazz group Masqualero, Molvær became associated with the ECM label, which later released his first solo material. In 1998, Khmer, which incorporated ambient, house, and electronic sounds along with his trumpet, came out, followed two years later...
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ER, Nils Petter Molvær
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