Accomplished young Norwegian bassist leads a group including rising star saxophonist...
Peter Marsh 2005
This is (as far as I can work out) the debut as leader from bassist Mats Eilertsen, who's probably known best on these shores for his membership of Anglo-Nordic improvising quartet Food. There are so many fine bassists emerging from the current crop of Scandinavian jazzers that it's becoming hard to keep track of them, but Turanga is further evidence of a pretty major talent.
Eilertsen's compatriots include drummer Thomas Stronen (also of Food) and Swedish rising star saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist (of Atomic), plus improvising cellist Ernst Reijseger. The record is split more or less equally between collective improvisations and Eilertsen's compositions. A quiet intensity underpins the whole, with Stronen's arsenal of clatter driving proceedings with an abstracted,occasionally swinginggroove.
Reijseger is fantastic; graceful, guitar-like pizzicatto runs alternate with keening, bowed interventions (listen to the way he answers himself with bow and then fingers on the graceful swing of "Sweet Snowflakes"). Ljungkvist is capable of eyebrow scorching intensity as well as that trademark Nordic introspection. Though he steers mainly to the latter here, he's never in danger of the misty eyed sentimalism that sometimes dogs the genre.
Eilertsen's compositions are organic affairs, their melodiesemerging slowly from restrained atmospheric improvisations. "Visby" reveals its gently intoxicatingmotifs only in its closing minutes, while "Solitude" and "Sukha" opt for a limpid beauty that (had more reverb been added) wouldn't be out of place on a classic ECM date.
The leader's contributions are agile, supportive and warmly propulsive. His solos are pithy and emotive, the technique firmly at the service of the music rather than dictating it.
The inclusion of the slightly more acerbic improvs provides a contrast to the sharper focus and sweeter textures of Eilertsen's tunes. Though on balance I prefer the latter, nothing really outstays its welcome here. Eilertsen is a name to watch, and certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Anders Jormin and Arild Andersen (to name but two). Beautiful.