A guitarist who pulls from jazz and classical traditions, Norwegian-American Jacob Young leads a blissful group on his third ECM disc, Forever Young, and it’s the closest the label has come to producing a pop jazz record. That’s not a slight because the harmonics and earthy arrangements are artfully crafted and too sophisticated to be that smooth, but one or two the album’s spellbinding melodies could find their way on a quiet storm set list thanks to the tuneful interplay between Young and saxophonist Trygve Seim.
Among these, “Bounce” has an infectious beat, a buoyant melody spelled out by Seim and a skillfully precise guitar solo by Young. The sensitive tune, “Therese’s Gate,” has a lovely, calibrated Brazilian feeling where Young’s classical guitar chords float over Seim’s lush horn lines and Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski steps in with an extended and notable piano solo. The saxophonist opts out on “1970,” a tune that catches our ear with a theme that’s underscored by tumbling bass and drum rhythms and supple electric guitar work by Young and another beautifully played modern piano solo. Another of Young’s strong compositions, “Beauty,” softly kills with his acoustic fills and polished melody that’s tailor-made for late night radio. Wasilewski and his trio are at the heart of the recording — their own recordings for ECM and as part of trumpeter Tomasz Stanko’s quartet are superb, but here it’s Young and his frontline saxophone partner who deliver the shape and substance for this exceptional effort. (10 tracks; 74 minutes)