Nicolay with the Hot at Nights

Raleigh, NC


You could have forgiven the polymath producer Nicolay Rook and the Triangle jazz-fusion trio The Hot at Nights for giving up on Glaciers, the album they were trying to make together years ago. In 2015, the collective quartet was nearly done with the first draft of its sessions when a hard drive crashed, causing Rook and the band to choose between dropping the project or starting again. “The only way that it made sense spiritually to me was if I was meant to do an even better job on it,” the Netherlands-born, North Carolina-based producer and Foreign Exchange cofounder has said of the hard-drive crash. “That’s how I took it—as though it just wasn’t strong enough.”

Rather than letting the entire endeavor melt away, Nicolay and the trio went at it again, returning with what All Music Guide calls “forty minutes that evoke steady forward motion, adeptly mixing jazz, funk, and downtempos that range from faint to ringing.” You’ll hear the faint in “Tell Me Something New,” where Matt Douglas’ horn wails itself into a shadowy bass-hugging buzz. You’ll spot the ringing during “Pioneer 11,” which highlights Nicolay’s love of borderless music and allows his chords to sparkle inside The Hot at Nights’ propulsion. It’s a nine-song jazz throttle rendered with Nicolay’s signature tranquil grooves and the same live-band acrobatics that defined pliant groups like Return to Forever and Weather Report. Nicolay developed his agnostic approach to genre years before today’s new generation of jazz rebels began making headlines, so this isn’t some bandwagon move. It is, however, a way for him to reiterate that his musical vision and phrasing have been, like Hopscotch, a melting pot for a decade.