Mats Eilertsen -- does it sound at all familiar to you? You might know the name from his many side duties on some fifty or so recordings, many on outstanding discs for ECM: Jacob Young's "Sideways" (2008) and "Evening Falls" (2004), Wolfert Brederode' s "Currents"(2007) and "Post Scriptum" (2011), or Tord Gustavsen's "Restored, Returned" (2010). And if you pick up a wonderful new disc by Yelena Eckemoff, "FORGET-me-NOT" (Yelenamusic 2012) you will find him in a trio with Eckemoff on piano and the wonderfully creative Marilyn Mazur on percussion.
So who is this wonderfully lyrical bassist? Mats Eilertsen was born in 1975 in Trondheim, Norway, and received his education in music from the Jazz Department at the Conservatory of Music in Trondheim. He is a highly in-demand musician and in the past decade has played in a number of bands both in Norway and internationally, inlcuding the Tord Gustavsen Ensemble, The Source with Trygve Seim, Dutch pianist Wolfert Brederode, Bobo Stenson, and Food. As noted earlier, he has also released six CDs as leader, all on the Norwegian label Hubro. Mats is considered to be one of a handful of first-call bass players in Europe, one who brings a large, warm and lyrical sound to a band, and one who can play both inside and outside as called for by the music, showing an openness and willingness to experiement with sound.
Eilersten has six recordings under his name, but it is the last three on the Hubro label that are discussed here.
"Radio Yonder" (Hubro 2010) is a quartet album featuring Eilertsen on bass, Tore Brunborg on saxophone, Thomas Dahl on guitar, and Olavi Louhivuori on drums. It begins slowly with the mood set by the guitar and bass, followed by the entry of Brunborg on saxophone. Entitled "Radio" it is a good introduction to the sensibilities of the group, which features extended ruminations by the saxophone and guitar, with a solid, almost droning bass line under-pinning the piece. The saxophone gradually builds in tempo and tone to a crescendo, and then falls back in the final minute as the music recedes slowly back to the two stringed instruments. The music is always melodic and lyrical, not in the sense of standards play but rather in a freer use of the instruments and their possibilities. Eilertsen leans towards a soft and sometimes dark sound with a flexible approach to time that's near-signature to Norwegian improvised music. This is inventive material almost entirely written by Eilertsen, and much of it is mellow and meditative and quite low keyed. "Bora", the second song, has a lovely long solo for the guitar with very restrained brushwork and basslines underneath, and Dahl is very much one who brings an inventive spirit to the group. Brunborg in turn follows on "Bora" with a lovely extended and lyrical part, very restrained but yet inventive as he travels the length of his instrument. Overall, the ECM sensibility is very strong throughout the music, which enchants at times with each soloist taking a turn in the spotlight. Brunborg in particular is outstanding thoroughout.