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Jon Balke’s Magnetic North Orchestra

Improvised Music Company & The Jazz Architects present

ECM 05 Autumn Cycle

Jon Balke’s Magnetic North Orchestra

  • Jon Balke – piano/keyboards
  • Per Jørgensen – trumpet/vocal
  • Fredrik Lundin – saxophone
  • Bjarte Eike - violin
  • Peter Spissky - violin
  • Thomas Pitt - cello
  • Helge Nordbakken – drums/percussion
  • Ingar Zach – drums/percussion

Sponsored by Pierce Associates Architects

Balke's compositional gifts are considerable and the MNO are extraordinary players…music that plays out its tensions and releases beautifully; essential listening for the ECM devotee.” - BBC Music Magazine

Fittingly, Jon Balke marks his first Irish appearance with the Magnetic North Orchestra, for the pull of Scandinavia has been a characteristic of ECM since the label’s inception, with many of its meisterworks recorded in Rainbow Studios, in Balke’s native Oslo.

Balke is intimately familiar with it surroundings, and since the mid 70s has been a presence on Norway’s creative music scene, mentoring young musicians like Tord Gustavsen including landmark groups like Masqualero with Arild Andersen, Jon Christensen and Nils Petter Molvaer. All the while, a unique voice was emerging, and since 1992, the primary conduit for his textured, evocative compositions has been Magnetic North Orchestra. His is truly a world music, channelling Nordic jazz, African rhythmic concepts, free improv and technology into the travelogue implicit in the title of their latest ECM release, Diverted Travels.

Despite its colourful DNA, there’s no sense of bombast or glib fusion here. Balke’s aural terrain is rarely overt in its geography, his colours wash into each other, like the celestial phenomenom that lights up the Northern sky. It has the languid, uncluttered feel so typical of Nordic jazz, with writing that is rich in inner detail, characterized by a mysterious equilibrium between composed and free materials.

Like all great jazz composers, Jon Balke writes for specific personalities and in MNO, he’s gathered together some of the most persuasive voice in Northern Europe, from the freely expressive horns of Per Jorgensen and Fredrik Lundin, the hypnotic strings of baroque specialists Bjarte Eike, Peter Spissky and Thomas Pitt, and the earthy textures of percussionists Helge Norbakken and Inger Zach. Together with Balke’s expansive piano voicings, they create an ensemble sound of striking originality that lives up to its orchestral ambitions.

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