"Diverted Travels", the third ECM album by the pan-Scandinavian Magnetic North Orchestra, extends the radius of the work already documented on "Further" (recorded 1993) and "Kyanos" (recorded 2001) and confirms once again that Jon Balke is one of the most unique writer-arrangers in contemporary jazz. Diverted Travels features a radically revised line-up – only the leader and trumpeter Per Jorgensen remain from the original band, but the music, which continues to move in mysterious ways, with ever-arresting harmonic variety and textural differentiation, and a delicate equilibrium between the composed and the free, is unmistakably Balke’s.
The eight members of Jon Balke’s Magnetic North Orchestra include bass and two percussionists, but add trumpet, sax, two violins and Balke’s keyboards, and there’s an ensemble with a surely unique sound. Woodsy textures and the thrumming of palms and fingers on drumskins are blended with the sharp chatter of horns, the leader’s needle-fine piano commentaries and a faint background burble of electronics. As the album’s title suggests, the 14 pieces make up a fascinating journey.
Richard Cook, BBC Music Magazine