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Mats Eilertsen

Blog
Mats Eilertsen

03.07.2019

Text: Leyla Aksu
Collage: Sadi Güran

For over twenty years, composer, musician, and master double bassist Mats Eilertsen has been a sought after name in the contemporary jazz scene across Norway and Europe, as well as an indispensible collaborator within the ECM family. Since the early days of his career, Eilertsen has been a part of countless musical formations, acquiring a cohort of frequent collaborators that move together from project to project, in addition to an ever-growing roster of new musical partners. Before coming to take the Akbank Sanat stage as part of 29th Akbank Jazz Festival this October with the Mats Eilertsen Trio, we take a brief look at his career and some of the essential collaborations he made along the way.

Mats Eilertsen began his music education in his hometown of Trondheim and started his first band, Dingobats, with his jazz program peers while still a conservatory student. Comprised of Eirik Hegdal on saxophone, future long-term collaborator Thomas Dahl on guitar, and Sverre Gjørvard on drums, the band made a splash on the Norwegian jazz scene in the late 1990’s. Eilertsen then lent a hand to the improvisational quartet Food, appearing on the band’s first four releases and capturing a more experimental, ambient tone alongside percussionist Thomas Strønen, who he would work with on many future projects, as well as saxophonist Iain Ballamy and trumpet player Arve Henriksen.

While continuing his work with Food, however, Eilertsen also began performing with saxophonist Håkon Kornstad’s trio, an award-winning collaboration that he has returned to in recent years. He then embarked on his ECM adventure by joining former band mate Thomas Strønen’s chamber jazz collective Parish in 2004 and appearing on guitarist Jacob Young’s label debut, Evening Falls. Since then, Eilertsen has appeared all across the legendary label’s catalog, working with a diverse array of artists and bands including the Tord Gustavsen Ensemble, Yelena Eckemoff, Mathias Elck, Trygve Seim, Wolfert Brederode, the Source, and Nils Økland.

Known for the warmth of his tone and an approach to music devoid of ego, Eilertsen also continues to carve out a unique path with his solo work, nestled at the intersection of jazz and classical music. In 2005 he established the Turanga quartet, bringing together cellist Ernst Reljseger, saxophonist Frederick Ljungkvist, and, once again, Thomas Strønen on drums, making his debut as a band leader with the group’s first self-titled release. Sharing his gifts as a composer with audiences, he followed this up with 2008’s Flux, also forming both the Mats Eilertsen Trio and his Skydive Trio during this time.

Taking a more fluid and melodic direction in recent years, Eilertsen then made his own ECM debut with 2016’s Rubicon. Starting off as a commission by the Vossajazz Festival, the album found Eiletsen in a crowded septet formation and was produced by Manfred Eicher. His follow-up for the label, 2019’s And Then Comes The Night, was then recorded with the Mats Eilertsen Trio, celebrating its 10th year, delivering a subtle and natural flow, “a river or whirlpool of moods that carries you with it.” Reflecting on his journey so far, Eilertsen says, “There have been lots of detours and expeditions in the dark, finding musical ideas that I’ve wanted to carry along with me. It feels to me that there is so much music still to be played.”

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