Jacob Holm-Lupo’s latest project is the jazz prog outfit Solstein, the idea for which came from his work with Steely Dan and Toto drummer Keith Carlock on a track for his previous project, Donner. They brought on board up and coming guitarist Stian Larson and keyboardists Brynjar Dambo (White Willow) and Bill Bressler to create a fine line-up of musicians.
Jacob has been involved in a number of projects, reflecting his love of music in all its shapes and forms, and Solstein is no exception. Indeed, it is up there with his best, merging his influences with like-minded songwriters and musicians. The name of this band and album comes from a relatively rare rock, the Sunstone, whose main deposits are along the coast in Southern Norway, near to where Jacob lives on a small island. Solstein/sunstone has copper-red crystals that refract light in a beautiful way when seen from different angles.
This collaboration between Jacob and Keith has created a smooth partnership with a cohesive and productive feel. The vinyl-friendly eight tracks come in at just over thirty-six minutes, and this is where the secret lies; it encourages the listener to want to hit replay. The songs here sit well within the jazz fusion stylings, although there are touches of jazz/prog with washes of what may be compared to eighties-style synths, providing an accessible listen throughout. The excellent keyboards give the album a warm and lush feel; tie this in with Carlock’s fine drumming and Larson’s excellent guitar work and it all makes for a very satisfying listen with plenty of highs. The album was mixed and mastered by Jacob Holm-Lupo at his Dude Ranch Studio, and the attention to detail shines through.
The album begins with Intersection, a track which instils the groove from a light keyboard start, the tapping of drums and guitar joining in to propel things forward. The keyboards fill the sound, over which Stian creates some great guitar, an early demonstration of the talent he has to offer. Next is the only song not written by members of the band, a great version of Oriental Folk Song by Wayne Shorter.
February 9th has a sparse arrangement and presentation, when compared to the rest of the album. It features Stian with Jacob on synths and electric piano, and the playing from both is excellent. The atmospheric synths and delicate electric piano accompanied by some wonderfully precise guitar provides a beautiful and gentle interlude. The Creeper follows, aptly named as it does just that, creeping up on you. Repeated listens instil the now famous earworm, leaving the song’s melody going around your brain – to positive effect, I might add. Jacob and Keith’s mutual love of Steely Dan is evident here, although it does shine through elsewhere within these pieces. Hamada finishes the album off like it began, with a nice groove and, again, some great guitar and bass work.
What Solstein have created here is a fine jazz fusion album, with some emphasis on the funkier aspects, full of melody with slick, polished tracks that show the enjoyment of the band members in playing them. It is an album that deserves to widely heard and appreciated, and I hope you will give it a listen and then join me in hoping that Solstein follow this up with more great music.
01. Intersection (3:39)
02. Oriental Folk Song (4:49)
03. Southwester (6:21)
04. The Night Owl (3:55)
05. Siriusly (4:07)
06. February 9th (4:05)
07. The Creeper (3:57)
08. Hamada (5:16)
Total Time – 36:12
Jacob Holm-Lupo – Bass, Keyboards, Synthesisers, Rhythm Guitar
Keith Carlock – Drums
Stian Larson – Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Bryjar Dambo – Keyboards, Synthesisers
Bill Bressler – Keyboards, Synthesisers
Martin Windstad – Percussion (track 5)
Ina Aurelia – Backing Vocals (track 5)
Record Label: Is It Jazz? Records
Catalogue#: KAR256LP, KAR256CD
Country of Origin: Norway / U.S.A.
Date of Release: 7th July 2023