- David Bentley
Eberson 🇳🇴 – ‘Strange Highway’ (single from forthcoming album)
There is in football the concept of the ‘utility’ player, the sort who can fill in as a forward or midfielder, playing on either wing or ‘down the middle’, a creator or enforcer. Even in goal if necessary. The England team seems to have 11 of them but none appears to know what he, or the others, is supposed to be doing.
The music business has something similar, all-rounders who seem comfortable in any position, playing any style, and I’d have to say that their Nordic Queen without a doubt is Marte Eberson. She has already turned up in NMR recently in bands as diverse as Löv (everything from pop classics to formal classicism)and Husmo HAV (cinematic instrumental music), covering well-known songs in live shows with highly regarded artists like Ane Brun, and in a Highasakite ‘Down Memory Lane’ trip article as well as providing the NMR Christmas song last year.
Now she returns to her roots so to speak with this, the first single from a forthcoming second album from Eberson, a duo consisting of Marte and her father, the well-known guitarist Jon Eberson, and supplemented here by several other top class musicians including Jo Berger Myhre on bass, Axel Skalstad on drums and Rune Arnesen on percussion.
There is some history behind this album. I recall reading a social media post early on in the pandemic last year in which Marte questioned her role, pondering just how many musicians the world needs and in a subsequent interview she revealed that she had considered whether she should retrain as a nurse or something else socially useful. I’m not the only one to have written an impassioned response to that first post, asking her to reconsider. The world needs musicians as much as nurses right now.
Fortunately she did and together with her father they decided to see what inspiration would materialise if they went into the studio and started recording new music. This is the first example of the result. They say the album is quite different from the previous one, ‘Empathy’, released in 2018. The vocals have been replaced with heavy Rhodes (piano) riffs, drums and bass, while Jon Eberson's musical signature is a key element in all the songs.
This first single from the album is called ‘Strange Highway’, referencing “a chaotic drive along a mysterious and absurd highway”, which could be Mulholland Drive or the M62 I suppose, and which for some reason immediately puts me in mind of Anna Calvi and David Byrne’s ‘Strange Weather’ and therefore a mile on-side to return to the football analogies, even if the music is completely different. It is said to be inspired by David Lynch (there’s your Mulholland Drive), ZZ Top, Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, but with a clear and distinct Eberson sound.
What I really love is the uniqueness of that distinct Eberson sound; you just don’t hear much, if anything, like this nowadays. What is it, jazz-prog? A new ‘genre’ of its own; jazzerson? The only track I can even vaguely relate directly to it is Gungfly’s nine-minute epic ‘Rumbling Boxes’.
Imagine if Jimi Hendrix had suddenly turned up to jam with ELP or YES. In fact it occurred to me that Emerson, Lake and Palmer almost added Hendrix to their line up just before his demise and this song sounds a lot like what I would have expected from ‘ELPH’. Or might that have been ‘HELP’? And with the production overseen by Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk.
Dad is an acknowledged guitar master while daughter on her own admission can barely play a chord on that instrument, much preferring the keys from the moment she started making music. She doesn’t really look interested in the guitar in the photo, does she? And for all the fabulous guitar work from Jon, especially that Dire Straits-like intro, together with a terrific rhythm section, it is when Marte goes off into one of those mazy Wakeman/Emerson-like runs that I’m most reminded of that long-gone era, almost 50 years ago now, when some of the best music the world has ever heard was being created.
‘Strange Highway’ the single is available on streaming platforms from Friday 26th June via the Jazzland label. No date yet on the album.
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