Virtuoso musicians Odd-Arne Jacobsen & Tore-Morten Andreassen have released two EP’s in contemporary – the more classically inclined “Alt eller ingenting” and the Jazz-fusion flavored “Lullaby of Byrdland”. Music that fetishizes technical skill is almost always boring for all but fellow musicians. But chances are, if you’re reading this review, you also play guitar or are at least interested in the instrument. If I’m right, and perhaps even if I’m not, you’re in for a real treat. Why? Because these are not the usual guitar recordings. On the EP “Alt eller ingenting”, Odd-Arne Jacobsen & Tore-Morten Andreassen are playing 11 string alto guitars made by luthier Georg Bolin of Stockholm. It’s a very rare instrument and has never been used in this way before. While on “Lullaby of Byrdland” they utilize the legendary Byrdland and Les Paul versions of Gibson. The result is two distinct recordings with very diverse tones, textures and playing styles.
Suffice of course to say, few can play guitar quite like Odd-Arne Jacobsen & Tore-Morten Andreassen do on these recordings. This is the sound of two of the greatest independent guitar virtuosos of Norway, and perhaps all of Europe, holding nothing back. And trust me, if you can play like this, you have more than enough right to show off to your audience.
None of this is to say that the two EP’s in question aren’t full of musically sensitive performances. In fact, these recordings are almost as improbable in their musicality as they are in their virtuosity; even with the ludicrous volume of notes being played, they find room for dynamic shaping and smart pacing.
It’s just that, even if Odd-Arne Jacobsen & Tore-Morten Andreassen threw all of that to the wind, this would still be one of the most important acoustic guitar recordings of the year. The technique on display is just that stellar. You’ve really got to hear it to believe it.
To make things even easier and more recognizable for the untrained listener, the pair have chosen some classic songs to cover in their own personal styles. “Alt eller ingenting”, in fact, contains the tracks “Emigrant Song” (Emigrantvisa Trad.), “Scarborough Fair” (Simon & Garfunkel) and “Where Are We Know” (David Bowie).
Even if you have never held, played, picked, or strummed a guitar, you will be thoroughly surprised with how Odd-Arne Jacobsen & Tore-Morten Andreassen interpret these songs. This is a magnificent package. I cannot imagine a more talented couple of guitar players than this duo.
From the first song to the last, these men exhibit true guitar brilliance and technical mastery. There is not a bad moment on this recording. “Lullaby of Byrdland” takes a jazzier route, but is no less impressive, covering the famed title track, and including “Apache” (The Shadows), “Cherokee” (Ray Noble), “Wichita Lineman” (Jimmy Webb), and “Amorada” (Valdir Azevedo).
Listening to this EP album is like listening in on a conversation in a beautiful language different from your own, where you can pick out phrases you recognize and appreciate the rhythms and intonations. Because we are all familiar with guitar music, it is much better than that may sound.
If you want to hear masters communicating in real-time in a medium that is truly their own, grab this recording. Actually grab both EP’s to completely savor the talents of these guys. The musicianship exhibited on both “Alt eller ingenting” and “Lullaby of Byrdland”, is nothing short of phenomenal. A joy to those whom delve into the technical beauty and emotions of musical art.