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Jacob Young was born in 1970 in Lillehammer, Norway, and currently resides in Oslo. He began studying guitar on his own at the age of 12 after being introduced to jazz by his father, an American. He studied music at the University of Oslo and received a scholarship to the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. While in New York, he studied the jazz repertoire as a gateway to harmonic improvisation. His primary instructor was the legendary guitarist Jim Hall, who influenced his tone. Young studied with Hall privately as well as in ensemble settings. He also took private instruction from guitarist John Abercrombie, one of the mainstays of ECM Records. In addition to studying his chosen instrument, Young studied jazz composition as well with pianist Richie Beierach and Kenny Werner. He graduated in 1993 and spent time freelancing and apprenticing in the city with notables Rashied Ali, Marc Copeland, Junior Mance, Larry Goldings, and Arnie Lawrence.
Young eventually returned to Norway and recorded three titles for local labels with musicians such as Nils Petter Molvaer, Trygve Seim, Arve Henricksen, and Jarle Vespestad. While gigging in Norway with Seim's band, Young garnered the attention of Norwegian vocalist Karin Krog. The pair recorded a duet album, Where Flamingoes Fly, on the Grappa label, produced by John Surman. The duo did a world tour behind the album. ECM Records' impresario Manfred Eicher heard Young playing with Seim's band and eventually signed him. Jacob Young's debut for ECM, Evening Falls, features his own compositions and a two-year-old band containing three generations of Norwegian musicians including veteran drummer Jon Christensen, who has been part of the ECM roster since the '70s; maverick trumpeter Mathias Eick, bass clarinetist and saxophonist Vidar Johansen, and bassist Mats Eilertsen.
He was the guitarist in the experimental jazz-rock-eletronics outfit Interstatic and played on their self-titled debut in 2007. His own effort, Sideways, followed in 2008; recorded with the same band that cut his first album, it appeared in 2008. In 2009, Young was the guitarist in drummer Manu Katché's band for Third Round, which was issued in 2010. He spent the next three years playing live in Europe on his own and backing others. He re-entered an Oslo studio as a bandleader in 2013 with saxophonist Trygve Seim and pianist Marcin Wasilewski's trio on Forever Young, issued in the early summer of 2014.