All Bill Frisell is saying

Hot Eskimos are playing a so-called morning session on September first in Harpa on the Reykjavik Jazz Festival. The same night in the same hall, Bill Frisell will be performing John Lennon’s songs with his band. I have to confess I haven’t listened to him as much as I should have. Still I think I’d recognize his sound in a blindfold test. Many of my guitar playing friends love him. I found on Youtube “a making of the album” video from his John Lennon project.

I love “making of” videos. Partly because of the producer in me, I get to see inside the studio, see the mics and amps they’re using…An opportunity to learn.

And partly because the little boy in me that wants so badly to play with the grownups gets closer to them, to meet the legends and listen to them talk, screen to face.

This date will be fantastic, the first Reykjavik gig of Hot Eskimos in the noon and in the evening a concert with Bill Frisell. What could possibly go wrong?



Happy Birthday mr. Mehldau


The man with the most Google friendly name in the world, a name that sounds like a river that runs through East-European towns and forests, Brad Mehldau; it’s his birthday today. He’s 42. I bought my first Mehdau trio CD back in ’98. I had been high on Bill Evans’ soft, impressionistic, introvert piano style for many years and suddenly I was hit with this totally different sound that  grabbed my heart and squeezed hard. That dry, under-pedaled style, direct with no pretense, dead slow and murder fast, odd-time festival if there ever was one, more influenced from the romantic masters than impressionism. And his fellow trioists, man! Do they ooze with character! I’m not the right guy to try to describe this music with words. Why should I when I can just give you a taste. This is from this first CD I purchased with the Brad Mehldau Trio: The Art of the Trio v.2, live at Village Vanguard. It’s still my favorite jazz trio disc. The song is Cole Porter’s classic: It’s Alright With Me. Yes sir, it is! No video, just heavenly jazz. Close your eyes and get lost in the moment. Happy Birthday Brad.


Eskimos On The Radio


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Hot Eskimos played on the annual Folk Music Festival in Siglufjörður,in northen Iceland last June. To be frank, our repetoire is based on popular music from the 70’s onwards so it was a bit of a stretch. But we like to think of these songs as the folk music of tomorrow. And to play along we took an ancient folk melody and made it into a blues. My dear old father heard it on the National Radio 1 (RUV) the other day in a program about the festival. So I directed my browser to their site and downloaded it (as opposed to recording it to a cassette tape as we did when we were young, remember?) And you can listen to it here! Hot Eskimos, live in Siglufjörður kirkja. Yes, it’s the church of Siglufjörður (pictured above).

– A waitress in a hamburger joint in Siglufjörður was so kind to take our picture with the church in the background, just a few steps outside her workplace. As you can tell our bellies are full of hamburgers. Life on the road!

Reykjavík Jazz Festival 2012

These fine young men are Hot Eskimos. Kiddi, Jón and me. We will be performing in Reykjavík for the first time on September 1, 2012. We’ve played a few festivals in the country side but now it’s the big city. Very exciting. We’ll be playing material from our album, Songs From the Top of the World (2011) and some new arrangements of various Icelandic tunes.

Don’t miss us in Silfurberg hall at Harpa Concert House at 11:30 on a Saturday noon. It will be a blast!


Could You Be More Pacific?


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One charming thing about jazz records is that they don’t document where their performers were artistically in that year the albums were made. They tell you how they were playing and how they felt that day or two the recordings were done! Then the artists went on playing hundred other gigs the same year, maybe in a totally different way.

I think Brad Mehldau said something in that direction in an interview many years ago (or maybe it was someone else, I don’t seem to find it again). I just started thinking about this when I wrote the last blog about the albums from 1959. Some of the artists did three different albums that year, some of them very different from the next (Miles, Bill Evans). It’s true but not entirely right to say “This is how Miles sounded in ’59” More specific would be “This is how Miles sounded on March 2 ’59”

And that’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise why they have announced a release of the second Brad Mehldau Trio CD of 2012. The former came out in April, the second is due in September. Two in a year. Can’t complain!




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I’ve thought about doing this before. From time to time I’m amazed to find that a jazz album I’m listening to was recorded in 1959. That very year. It happens over and over again but with different albums. So many. How many? I decided to do a little list. Some great records were made in 1958 too, as surely as other years, but there are so many groundbreaking ones from ’59. What did they put in the water that year? Do you have a left over bottle for me somewhere?

Here are 11 albums that I have and love from 1959:

Mr Wilson and Mr Gershwin was one of the first jazz albums I got. It has Teddy Wilson Trio playing songs by Gershwin (that had by then been resting is his grave for 22 years). Teddy Wilson was an amazing swing pianist with such a feel good air in his playing. EDIT: When I got this album on CD when I was in my teens it was in fact a double feature, also including an album with the same trio called …And Then They Wrote. And that was also recorded in 1959.

Kind of Blue is the most famous one from that year. And unbelievable it is.

Miles Davis also did Sketches of Spain that year. I love that album. Gil Evans doing his thing.

Workin’ with Miles Davis quartet was also released that year but I believe it was recorded some years before although it was released that wunder year. A superb album but sounds like Miles (and Coltrane) did in ’56.

Bill Evans came out with Green Dolphin Street the same year with the rhythm pair from Kind of Blue. A nice one.

Bill Evans also did the first recording with his so called “first trio” including Scott LaFaro on bass that year, Portrait in Jazz. Recommended.

Yet another Bill Evans appearance that year is on a Lee Konitz album called Live at the Half Note. Konitz has the coolest tone and a wicked way to approach melodies and then he tears the forms apart. Great to hear him with Evans which has other things on his mind, painting music with his water color piano.

John Coltrain did Giant Steps the same year. I only recently started listening to it. I never felt ready before. Another milestone along the road.

One of Jimmy Smith’s better records came out that year, Home Cookin’. Kenny Burrell plays guitar on it and that can never be bad. It’s really not for every one to listen through an entire hammond organ album but this one is fun.

Kenny Dorham’s Quiet Kenny is another cool trumpet album from 1959. Just a great quartet and an echo chamber.

I have a live recordings with Oscar Peterson trio from Newport Jazz Festival 1959. His Night Train rhythm pair is with him (which wasn’t recorded until 1962 (which saw a number of my favorites jazz album recorded)) namely Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen. They are burning as usual but there is an extra spark there that night. Maybe because of the others acts in Newport that weekend. Many of them must have been in the audience in that gig. The festival would have been the place to be that summer, the bands that played there…man! Count Basie, Monk, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with Lee Morgan and Hank Mobley, Dizzy, Ahmad Jamal’s trio, Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith…Wow!

And both Billie Holiday and Lester Young died that year. Completely drained after years of jazz living.

Other legendary albums that come to mind that were released that amazing year, but I haven’t really studied yet and therefore not mentioned before were Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come, Mingus’ Mingus Ah Um, and Horace Silver’s Blowin’ the Blues Away.

And the best thing about it is that you can still enjoy it today. You don’t have to be born in the 30’s or the 40’s to love this music. And it’s all here on the internet.


Hot Eskimo – The Shot!

Hot Eskimo is a drink for the brave and the curious. It’s tastes badly and makes you go nuts. Its ingredients signify the Eskimo living in his igloo (not really, rather the Icelandic viking but lets not split hairs) and the Mexican living under the burning sun. Brennivín and Tequila. With a dash of lime juice. The tastes of each ingredient blend poorly so it’s almost like drinking each drink dry. But all at the same time. And like the jazz trio that got the name from the drink, it’s interesting!
1 part Tequila
1 part Icelandic Brennivín
1 part freshly squeezed lime juice
Served in a shot glass


Conquer The World On A Low Budget

As a musician I’m very intrigued by the social media and the endless opportunities it has brought to bands and artists for them to become more visible and to help distribute their art.
(That was a looong opening line)
While I often work in big projects that have some budget to make videos and buy ads, I also devote a lot of time in more independent projects such as Hot Eskimos. And sometimes I have a bit of time on my hands but not so much money. Those are the times when I wished I could make something on my own to increase the visibility of our trio.
This is why I was fooling around with a software called Anime Studio last night, trying it out for the first time. I believe that with all music videos if you’ve got a good idea to begin with then you can conquer the world on a very low budget.
Well, I didn’t have a particularly good idea but it looks good and fun to do. I only did the first 1:40 minutes of the song which by the way is a live recording from our concert on a jazz festival in the eastern fjords of Iceland in June 2012.

The video is in two parts, the former is more abstract to harmonize with the improvized prelude to the song. The latter is more traditional, as is the music.


Street Pianos

Way cool! As of now there are 41 piano spread across Toronto for anyone to play them. I’ve dreamed of public pianos for a long time. Sometimes when I’m traveling, say in an airport, I’ve had this urge of playing a piano and I’ve fantasized about a vending piano, you insert a euro and play for 5 minutes. Never seen them though.

Well, the organizers of the Pan Am games 2015 have gone one step further and spread one piano for each participating country across the city of Toronto. Each piano is painted by an artist from one of the countries. See more pictures of those stunning pianos in Franco Cigneri’s blog.

Talking about ignorance, I’ve never heard about the Pan Am games. They are the second largest multi-sport event after the Summer Olympics with 41 America nations taking part (are there so many nations in America? Oh, the places I haven’t seen!)


The Mad Brehldau

My absolutely favorite piano player has got to be Brad Mehldau and not least when he plays with his trio. His rather “dry” approach to songs, an economic use of the sustain pedal and a lot of space between notes is something that struck me as weird when I first heard him but then became the thing that got me addicted to his sound. A clear and disciplined touch but every note oozes of meaning and soul. And beneath the it all something dangerous is brewing which breaks out now and again, twisted outside notes and random Morse code patterns. I saw them live for the first time a few months ago and it was an outworldly experience. Here’s a classic performance from 2008 of Arthur Hamilton’s Cry Me a River by the trio with a trademark improvised cadenza from Brad after the usual form of head-solos-head. Alright!