Jacob Young: Forever Young (ECM 2366)

Forever Young

Jacob Young
Forever Young

Jacob Young guitars
Trygve Seim tenor and soprano saxophones
Marcin Wasilewski piano
Slawomir Kurkiewicz double bass
Michal Miskiewicz drums
Recorded August 2013 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Forever Young is all Young. Jacob Young, that is. The Norwegian-American guitarist made his ECM debut with 2004’s Evening Falls, on which he joined a group of label regulars for a nuanced and strangely familiar encounter. Now for his third round (incidentally the title of a Manu Katché album on which he also appeared), Young enlists the help of saxophonist Trygve Seim and the Marcin Wasilewski Trio for an all-original set with all the evocative precision admirers will have come to expect.

Young band

Young’s experiences in Katche’s band seem to have rubbed off on two tunes. The mid-tempo groove of “Bounce” is luscious and slick as rain, and sports a solo from Young’s electric that lights up the night with its pale fire. “Sofia’s Dance,” for its part, is an acoustic-led excursion driven by drummer Michal Miskiewicz. Young sets a duly environmental precedent with his harp-strung picking, which is then fleshed out by Wasilewski toward some awesome group unity.

This dichotomy between instruments continues throughout the album, of which the acoustic tracks are marked by relaxed conversations. In this vein, Young and Seim share a musical relationship that reveals depth of friendship. The saxophonist often picks up the guitarist’s lunar phases and carries them toward new moon. In “Therese’s Gate,” for one, Seim emotes with the bareness of an experienced singer. This allows Young all the more room to stretch his fingers in that same vein of sincere expressiveness. Wasilewski’s pianism is notable for its beauty, as also in the track of the same name. “Beauty” finds Young in a strumming mood, thereby throwing more spotlight on the pianist and his wondrous rhythm section (hat tip to bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz). The album’s opener, “I Lost My Heart To You,” brings all of these elements together and more. A stellar intro from the keyboard drops a starlit curtain, from behind which Young’s foundations begin a winning melodic combination, even as Miskiewicz’s cymbals leave shining breadcrumbs toward sunrise. It’s an ideal place to start for the way it frames Young’s guitar as one element in a fair trade system. Like the arcs of a group of ice skaters on a forest pond, the musicians’ collective tracery implies many infinities.

The plugged-in tracks are smoother. Young’s virtuosity is on full display in “We Were Dancing” but, true to form, constructs with sensitivity intact and leaves space for Kurkiewicz’s light unpacking. “1970” names the year of Young’s birth, and is brimming with flower power. The gymnastic soloing adds to its charm. “Time Changes” is another summery piece of nostalgia, which behind its upbeat veneer cradles a strangely meditative soul. Young takes us to school with unpretentious grace, as Wasilewski’s trio measures every detail around him. The album ends on a reflective note with “My Brother.” And what better place to leave us than in the spirit of family? For we, too, are welcomed to share in the love, forever young and impervious to the critic’s words.

(To hear samples of Forever Young, click here.)

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