Mats Eilertsen ‘Rubicon’ (ECM) 4/5

mats-eilertsenNorwegian double bassist Mats Eilertsen is better known as part of the Trod Gustavsen ensemble, but has branched out on his for a solo project and this is very much where Scandinavian jazz is at, with a multi-national and multi-talented band that includes New Yorker and vibist Rob Waring, Dutch pianist/fender player Harmen Fraanje, Finn Olavi Louhivuon on drums and a host of fellow Norwegian musicians on reeds, guitar and clavinet respectively.
The general feel is laid back and moody in a classic ECM sound, but the septet cook up a storm on ‘Balky’ which is a mid-tempo number that transforms into a vehicle for tenorist Trygve Seim and with vibraphone also prominent. The eery atmospheric intro to ‘Blublue’ could be straight out of a Mingus composition while there is an altogether freer and staccato feel to the pared down piano plus vibes duet on, ‘Lago’, before the trio gently enter into proceedings and thereafter the clarinet of Eirik Hegdal wails sweetly as things become progressively free in the second half.
If the piano of fraanje is dream-like on ‘September’, then the leader’s bassline is both breezy and optimistic and there is something of a Metheny-esque quality to the composition itself. An all too brief piano-led, ‘Cross the Creek’, impresses, while the in tandem brass on the opener, ‘Canto’, is minimalist in form, especially when reduced to just piano and bass. In fact elsewhere the trio of tenor saxophone, guitar and vibes combine effectively on ‘March’, with a deeply melodic riff over the simplest of melodies.

Recorded at the Rainbow studio in Oslo, this latest release typifies the ECM sound and there are definite shades of Charles Lloyd in the tenor phrasing of Seim, who succeeds in creating the warmest of tones.

Tim Stenhouse