Odin Irgel Rock is the solo project belonging to Rodrigo Nickel, a saxophone and composition graduate at the conservatory of Brazilian music in the state of Paraná. Nickel’s solo career began with his self-titled debut album that he recorded all by himself in his home; however, a chance to play at a rock festival in the south of Brazil in 2017, gave Nickel the opportunity to record a second album with accompanying musicians. This second album is called ‘Back to The Cave’ and as well as Nickel’s sax and keyboards, the album features Diego Porres (bass), Gustavo Zagonel (guitar) and Wilson Demarchi (drums) who are friends of Nickel’s and members of a jazz trio known as ZDP. Killing two birds with one stone, they played at the rock festival and used their live material from the show to create the album, influenced by the “dinosaurs of prog” as Nickel describes. For those prog fans that enjoy the works of King Crimson, Soft Machine, Camel…or just enjoy the energy and unpredictability of jazz fusion – this is for you! Oh and if anyone is interested in what ‘Odin Irgel Rock’ means…I’ll let you work out what Nickel has done there!
We kick off proceedings with ‘Pitfall’, a fast-paced opener complete with time signature changes and, to my delight, an abundance of tightly played riffs, often in unison for some extra power! In the true style of jazz, chromaticism is a key feature of the sound here, especially in the unsettling middle section, carried along by Demarchi’s masterful drum fills. ‘Blue Rose’, with it’s similar fast pace, carries forward this momentum but this time the piece is led by Nickel’s sax. Zagonel plays some lovely guitar counter-parts to contrast Nickel’s sax melodies which adds much interest to the piece. The highlight for me comes when we reach the diminished solo section; the repetition of the diminished chord resolving onto the next creates an uneasy struggle between the tension of the diminished chord and the feeling of release created by the resolution – awesome stuff! And then to top it off, again in true jazz style, we are gifted with extended, improvised solos from both the sax (which, by the way, has a cool effect on it, perhaps a phase effect but I may be wrong) and the guitar, utilising notes from the chromatic and harmonic scales to colour the music even further. ‘Argento’ is alike in style, perhaps even more so; the start is aggressive, opening with punchy, dissonant chords which quickly subside into a quiet solo section that has a mysterious feel. Unlike the solo section in ‘Blue Rose’, the goal here is all tension no release! The accompaniment to Zagonel’s guitar solo is highly ambiguous; Porres’ bass arpeggiates the notes of an E power chord but clouds the tonality by adding clashing, outside notes as well as decorating the overall sound with his own bass licks – this song is where I can hear the King Crimson influence the most.
However, it’s not all tense and mysterious and tricky to work out: ‘Agora ou Nunca’ is much more accessible. The whole piece revolves around a standard bluesy chord progression, the only thing changing is the way it is played e.g. dynamics, texture. With more improvisation from the sax and guitar, the song is complete – it is an honest rock, blues song that refuses to be overcomplicated. The following song, ’Luz no Film do Túnel’, welcomes back the progressive influence. The piece centres around an ascending figure which acts as a recurring motif, usually after bouts of improvisation. I love the reggae influenced moments that, without warning, crop up out of no where yet fit really well within the context of the whole song. And then we come onto the final song of the album, ‘Fire Walk With Me’, which introduces a bold and powerful chord progression that develops in time. We hear this progression played at different dynamics to start off with but then Nickel turns this idea into a quick, repeating pattern that the rest of the band rhythmically challenge. Furthermore, although the guitar and sax interplay marvellously throughout the album, we certainly see them work together best on this piece, whether it be the two instruments harmonising or the call and response between the two players in the solo section. After the solos, the piece ends as it began with a return to those chunky power chords – a fitting end to a lively album!
As you can hear, this is some pretty complex stuff, especially in regards to harmony and rhythm – but have you ever heard of simple jazz? The way this band develop on ideas and create motifs make this album a joy to listen to – and of course the many moments of improvisation must have an honourable mention. This is bound to blow your socks off with the level of musicianship here, and the fact that this flawless performance was recorded live and all in one take is impressive. If you want to hear more of Nickel’s solo gems, check out his latest album ‘Let it Blow’ which is influenced by early rock and blues. If I ever need a professional sax player I know who to ask!
Written by Dominic Sanderson
You can find Rodrigo Nickel on Instagram! ‘Back to The Cave’ is available on YouTube, Bandcamp and Spotify!