WITH NO INTENTION of sitting on the sidelines, Icelandic electric guitarist Andrés Thor and his impressive quartet serve up a compelling, hour-long set of varied originals in their latest release, Ypsilon.
Perhaps it’s Thor’s formative musical discoveries – Hendrix, Zeppelin, Bon Jovi, and then Coltrane and Metheny – which inform the eclecticism of his compositional approach; but this nine-track outing with pianist Agnar Már Magnusson, bassist Richard Andersson and drummer Ari Hoenig fixes the attention, combining the eloquence of the guitar-led jazz tradition with a zesty, rock-imbued drive. The mellow fuzziness in Thor’s tonal palette is positively ambrosial, as is the precision of his technique, which reflects out into the rewarding richness of the overall sound (there’s certainly no sense of the leader showboating here, but rather an empathetic balance and clarity to every track).
Richard Andersson and Ari Hoenig together provide the band’s markedly rhythmic stability, identified in the purposeful groove of opening title track, Ypsilon, which sails blithely to guitar and piano improvisations. Across the entire album, the melodic partnership and individual improvisations of Andrés Thor and Agnar Már Magnússon are a joy, April‘s carefree journeyings coloured by warm, pedalled guitar textures and Hoenig’s incisive, ornamented cross-rhythms; and the openness of Zafón affords space for Andersson’s cantabile bass expression and Thor’s relaxed, Frisellian chromatics.
Cool, street-walking Biscuit displays the edginess of John Abercrombie as Magnússon’s hip, jabbing electric piano fuses with Thor’s grittier, rock resonance (each texturally supporting the other’s soloing). The almost insolent, lurching swing of Simple Question, with particularly elegant piano and guitar improv, is irresistible; an underlying pop-bass pulse brings a touch of George Benson ‘easy’ to Farmhouse; and the brooding, descending Andersson/Hoenig propulsion of Paw subtly evokes prog or even funk, as Thor combines effective repeated riffs with fluid extemporisations. Lush, late-night Snævi holds the poise of a Real Book classic, Magnússon’s luxurious chords impressionistically supporting Thor’s melodic sensitivity; and final track Oozy‘s sprightly, samba-like radiance also seems to have ‘jazz standard’ written all over it.
A pleasure to get to know this recording.
Released on 10 August 2016, Ypsilon is available as CD or digital download from Bandcamp.
Andrés Thor guitar, compositions
Agnar Már Magnússon piano, electric piano
Richard Andersson bass
Ari Hoenig drums
Dimma – DIM 17 (2016)