BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Veteran Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen has more sideperson gigs on his resumé than most of us have had hot dinners – he’s been the go-to guy for Scandinavian jazzers for over twenty years. But he’s also begun to make his mark as a composer and bandleader, as evidenced by 2016’s large ensemble piece Rubicon and his records with his current trio.
His third LP with pianist Harmon Fraanje and drummer Thomas Strønen (Food, Time is a Blind Guide), And Then Comes the Night does an expert job at straddling that fine line between jazz and classical music that European jazz musicians often favor and that ECM showcases so well. “22,” “Soften” and “After the Rain” lean hard on melody, with Fraanje preferring to work variations on the main theme more than spin off into improvisational flights of fancy. The leader works solely in support on these tracks, eschewing solos in favor of creating a foundation for a melancholy atmosphere. “The Void” and “Perpetum” threaten to give in to darkness completely, as Eilertsen weaves mournful arco bass through Fraanje’s minimalist chords on the former and the entire ensemble builds a quiet tower of menacing dissonance on the latter. In the tradition of his pioneering countryman Jon Christensen, Strønen plays around the beat as often as on it, an approach that adds a tension to the hermetic minimalism of “Sirens” that keeps it from floating off into the ether.
Eilertsen and company come full circle by ending the record with a variation on “22,” which, while not a radical departure, re-emphasizes the group’s commitment to its chamber jazz vision.
DOWNLOAD: “22,” “The Void,” “After the Rain”