Title - 'High North' [EP]
Artist - Jakob Magnússon
For those not in the know, Jakob Magnússon is an Icelandic composer, keyboard player, film director and producer.
In Iceland he is best known as the keyboardist and one of the founders of the multi-artistic band Stuðmenn, with which he has so far produced 17 albums (the last being 2017's Astraltertukubbur: Ásgeir Óskarsson).
He has also directed, produced and starred in several films, and released several solo albums with a number of famous jazz musicians from the United States.
For a period of the 1990s he was the cultural attaché of the Icelandic embassy in London and since 2002, aside from playing in Stuðmenn and recording new albums, Magnússon is the co-owner and manager of the advertisement agency Bankastræti in Reykjavík.
Magnússon studied music in California and during his time in the U.S. he started his own band with Carlos Rios (guitar), Steve Anderson (bass) and David Logeman (drums) and released several albums with jazz-influenced music.
On these albums he also involved many talented musicians such as Bill Champlin, Vinnie Colaiuta, Neil Stubenhaus, Abe Laboriel, Ernie Watts, Tom Scott, Peter Banks all of them heavily renowned names in Jazz and Jazz Fusion.
Magnússon has also been a studio musician for a number of American and Icelandic artists, and is known for his distinctive and tasteful keyboard solos and brilliant treatment of the Rhodes piano and various synthesizers.
And so now, as we globally come to terms with an unknown pandemic, Jakob Magnússon has brought forth a brand new EP to soothe our worried souls.
Released this past May 8th, 2020 via Woodward Avenue Records, High North us a five-track, 20 minute musical amalgam of, at times, shimmering and swaying, other times organic and old school, and yet always free flowing and soul-jazz cool hooks and vibes.
1. 'Karlsson's Arrival' (4:27)
2. 'Hook, Line & Sinker' (3:30)
3. 'Caption This' (3:59)
4. 'Reykjavik Romp' (3:38)
5. 'Next To You' (4:11)
Opening this lush five song set - one he wrote with two-time Grammy-winning producer/guitarist Paul Brown - with the euphoric hipsway of 'Karlsson's Arrival,' Magnússon - aka the popular, eminently grooving artist formerly known as "Jack Magnet" - backs that seamlessly up with the finger-snappin' R&B smooth jazz vibe of 'Hook, Line & Sinker'.
Next up is the first single released from the EP, and my own personal favorite, the sleek and silky funk of 'Caption This.' Opening with some gorgeous '70s guitar work from Brown, it's followed by the trumpet-inspired, low-slung groove of 'Reykjavik Romp,' with the EP coming to a close on the soulfully ornate 'Next To You.'
"The title High North refers to my Icelandic origins," Magnússon explains. "I come from what used to be considered the outskirts of the habitable world."
"Iceland used to be seen as a very remote, cold little island somewhere between Moscow and Washington, but thanks to international aviation, telecommunications and social media, it is now more and more seen as the most ideal and desirable location in the whole world."
"Living here gives you a different set of values and the musical life in Iceland has for years been blessed by free musical education for all, the presence of American radio and television networks, and some great American musicians and producers like Paul Brown who have been coming here for years to play and produce local talent. I´ve certainly benefitted from this," he adds.
"We were lucky to have one of the world´s foremost bass players here to lay the foundations with us, jazz-funk maverick Johann Asmundsson," Magnússon continues, "who has provided some of the key elements to the sound of renowned groove-jazzers Mezzoforte.”
As for the major inspiration for the EP opener, 'Karlsson’s Arrival,' he reveals that it's a "... a toss around the musical horn that affords each player the moment to shine by offering clever retorts in response to Magnusson’s deft keyboard calls."
High North was not only created as an international collaboration between the Reykjavik-based Magnússon and the Los Angeles-based Brown, but the utilization of other talented musicians also.
Flugelhorn player Snorri Sigurdsson, trumpeter Ari Bragi Karason and vocalist Ragnhildur Gisladottir are among the Icelandic musicians contributing to the collection with most of the grooves anchored by the Icelandic rhythm section formed by percussionist Lenny Castro, bassist Johann Asmundsson, and drummers Lew Laing and Thor Thorvaldsson.
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