CD reviews

CD REVIEW: Mats Eilertsen – And Then Comes The Night

Mats Eilertsen – And Then Comes The Night
(ECM 770 2567. CD review by Peter Bacon)

Do I sense something of a trend in ECM track programming for bookending an album with a tune and a variation of it? It’s there on the recent Jakob Bro album, Bay Of Rainbows, and it’s here again on Norwegian double bassist Mats Eilertsen’s new trio disc with fellow countryman/drummer Thomas Strønen and Dutch pianist Harmen Fraanje.

The tune is called 22 and has a heart-melting, folkish melody with a falling phrase that reminds me of Walton’s Touch Her Soft Lips And Part as articulated by Peter Erskine, John Taylor and Palle Danielsson back in 1995 (also on ECM). Fraanje makes the opening statements before Eilertsen adds the woody bottom and Strønen brings his characteristic near-orchestral percussion into play.

Eilertsen, a sideman on so many ECM discs – including releases by Tord Gustavsen, Trygve Seim and Mathias Eick – is not about to go off message on his second as leader. This album, like its predecessor, 2016’s Rubicon, sits firmly in the label’s “quiet storm”, or “Nordic cool” section – or however you want to describe one of its key strands. It’s very much a less-is-more band; even Strønen, perhaps the busiest of the three, leaves loads of space around the music. Its breaths may be deep, its sighs exquisitely articulated, but, when it chooses, this trio can have the air stopped in your chest with the intensity of its restrained excitement.

The title track (it comes from a novel by Icelandic writer Jón Kalman Stefánsson) feels like a three-way improv, as does Perpetum, while elsewhere the music is written by bassist or pianist, and has a gentle logic and form. Fraanje is lyrical with a leaning towards introspection, but the moods he creates are richly nuanced.

A good hi-fi is vital to get the full power of the album, especially the lower frequencies – not only the rich timbre of the Eilertsen’s bass but the monumental rumble of Strønen’s gran casa drum. In some ways the fourth member of the band is the hall where it was recorded (the musicians playing purely acoustically without using headphones); take a bow, Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano.

The band has been together for a decade and this is their third album (the first two are on the Hubro label). For me, it’s their strongest yet.

Mats Eilertsen Trio will be appearing on the jazzahead! clubnight at the Sendesaal in Bremen on 27 April

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