Mats Eilertsen Trio ‘And Then Comes The Night’ CD (ECM) 3/5

Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen has been a regular contributor for ECM now for a good number of years, having recorded for the label with the likes of Tord Gustavsen, Trygve Seim, Mathias Eick, Nils Økland and Jakob Young. Eilertsen has concurrently maintained projects of his own, including his present trio with Harmen Fraanje on piano and Thomas Strønen on drums. Now in its tenth year of existence, this is the trio’s first recording for ECM, following two previous releases on the Hubro label.

“And then comes the night” is named after the Icelandic writer Jon Kalman Stefansson’s novel “Summer Light, And then Comes The Light”, and the resulting music focusses on subtle, spacious and luminous interplay between the three musicians. “There is almost no theme-solo-theme playing on the album,” Eilertsen notes. “It’s more like a river or whirlpool of moods that carries you with it.” And this does perhaps explain why some tracks inevitably feel more complete than others when listening, with some pieces sounding more written than improvised, and others giving more of an impression of mood/tone poems that drift in and out of conscious awareness.

After many years of performing together it’s no surprise that the trio sound as one with a natural and insightful understanding of what each other are doing. This often comes over in the space and the quiet, contemplative energy that fills it. In many ways I am reminded of The Bobo Stenson Trio. Eilertsen’s trio share the same kind of skill and ambience as Stenson’s trio, with a non-formulaic originality at the very core of what they do. And whilst some pieces on this album lose my interest a little, there are others that are quite simply beautiful.

The album opens and closes with variations of the sombre “22”, titled for the 22nd April 2011, when it was composed by Eilertsen in stunned response to news of the attacks on the island of Utoya. “Albatross” is a stunning piece, with a freedom of spirit coursing though its heart and soul, engaging the listener in its contemplative splendour. Hints of The Keith Jarrett Trio are very much at play on the title track “Then comes the night” with its more exploratory and bluesy edge. The fascinating almost introverted lyricism to “Soften” takes the listener into a deep place of peace and tranquility and as with many of the tunes on this recording highlight the quality of the trio working together.

“And Then Comes The Night” has a lovely nature to it, with its generally contemplative feel making for pleasant and rewarding listening, even if not perhaps one of the most inspiring and original albums to be heard in the burgeoning catalogue of ECM piano-bass-drums trio recordings.

Mike Gates