Mats Eilertsen Trio: Sails Set


Norwegian releasedate: February 2013


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On the album Sails Set, recorded at Rainbow Studio in Oslo, we can hear the same trio line-up as featured on the critically acclaimed album Elegy: bassist Mats Eilertsen (Tord Gustavsen), pianist Harmen Fraanje (Michael Moore) and drummer Thomas Strønen (Food, Meadow).
Sails Set offers exclusively improvised material, relatively short and often melodic pieces in solo, duo or trio format. “Our goal has been to create improvised tunes, sounds and situations that could equally well have been composed and produced,” says Eilertsen. The members of the trio communicate seamlessly and effortlessly, and all three possess a richly varied palette of sounds and make a creative contribution to the ensemble, both as soloists and accompanists./h1>
Mats and Thomas have joined forces on a wide variety of projects since they met at the conservatory in Trondheim in the mid-90s. Among these are bands such as Food, the Maria Kannegaard Trio, Parish and Turanga. Pianist Harmen Fraanje met Mats when the latter lived in the Netherlands for a period of time, and since then they have stayed in touch and played together regularly in various connections.Sails Set asserts its subdued and sometimes understated qualities with the resonance of piano, bells and gongs, or in the lower registers of the bass and percussion instruments. There are passages with a refrain-like feeling (“Sails Set”), sonorous and slightly plaintive solo sections with the double bass (“Lunar Light”), more chant-like, monotonous and somewhat grandiose passages (“Monument”), and sonata-like piano segments (“Stellar”). As Mats Eilertsen explains, “For us it’s all about shaping a trio where the three of us are equal members in creating our sound and where we take turns being the focal point, carrying the melody, developing the sound, determining the basic principles, being storytellers and prime movers, and varying how each of us is distributed in the soundscape. On this album it’s about being selective, condensing and concentrating, and prioritising.” Sails Set is Mats Eilertsen’s fourth release on Hubro, following Radio Yonder (quartet), Elegy (trio) and SkyDive (quintet), and here he is returning to the trio format.




  1. The blurring and relaxation of traditional boundaries between soloist and rythm section is a defining feature of contemporary jazz. Words including “democratic”, “egalitarian” and even “synergic” are probably all too familiar to readers when describing this form of improvisation, but let it be noted that not all groups nail the art quite so intuitively as Eilertsen´s(…)I rarelt award five stars, but Sails Set is so intelligently crafted and beautifully distilled that it is nigh on perfect.
    – Jazz Journal, Fred Grand 5/5 (UK)

  2. he music on this album has been improvised into being in the studio. All three musicians are credited as composers. Their aim is to do improvised melodies, sounds and situations which sound as if they were composed. They succeed in doing so.

    The music is laid back and so loose in its structure that the musicians can take turns in leading. Harmen Fraanje often plays off beat – but melodically – so it doesn’t become too messy. Stønen is pacing. Eilertsen controls the middle and guides the two musicians in the direction he wants the music to go.
    It’s almost an understated trio album with an organic and vividly expression.
    – Scandinavian Jazz, Niels Overgård (DK)

  3. Man sieht sich beim Genuss des vierten Albums dieser Combo wieder darauf gestoßen, wie wirkungsvoll mit minimalen Mitteln erzeugte Musik sein kann, wenn die Verantwortlichen sie tatsächlich als Ausdrucksmittel ihrer Gefühle betrachten. Um sich selbst mitzuteilen, braucht man schließlich nicht viele Worte, und der norwegische Bassist Eilertsen, dem mit Harmen Fraanje ein mindestens genauso guter Zuhörer wie Pianist zur Seite steht, erweckt in seinen fast immer sehr knapp gefassten Stücken eine beachtliche Intensität. Drummer Thomas Strønen (auch Maria Kannegaard und Humcrush mit Ståle Storløkken) fällt dabei die nicht unwichtige Rolle des Vermittlers zu, was ihm umso leichter fallen mag, da seine Mitstreiter den Dialog sowieso suchen. Daraus erwachsen perkussive, im gleichen Maß von Bass und Klavier geprägte Preziosen wie ”Stay Dog” oder ”Monuments”, in welchen auch Pausen sowie die Geräusche der Hämmer auf den Saiten und knarrende Kessel etwas gelten. Im Übrigen erweitert der Schlagzeuger seinen Klangkatalog mit dem Naheliegenden – der eigenen Stimme, die in ”Currents” haucht – und lässt sich nicht zum bloßen Klopfgeist degradieren. Deswegen lässt sich im Rahmen von ”Sails Set” nicht über etwaige Bop-Grooves oder konventionelle Changes schwadronieren, sondern nur ein Urteil zugunsten der drei Norweger fällen: Ihr Jazz wird dem Grundgedanken hinter dieser Bezeichnung gerechter als das Gros der Caféhaus-Truppen – mit Wagemut und Anmut, durch rhythmisch wie harmonisch Unkonventionelles, das dennoch vertraute Emotionen anspricht.
    – Noise Neighbours 12/15 (DE)

  4. Here, the melodic ideas and fragments of melody are scrutinsed from every angle, and through spontaneous interaction seem to grow organically under the copacetic stewardship of a trio who creat as much by listening as by playing. This is an important distinction; in collective improvisation you are free to play what you want when you want, but this group do the opposite – they play what is needed whith the result that each short composition has a freshly minted quality. Each idea, each nuance in the music, is an instant distillation of countless possibilities shaped to the requierements of the moment, so perhaps it comes as no surprise that what emerges is often profound and always rich in meaning.
    – Jazzwise, Stuart Nicholson 4/5 (UK)

  5. Med «Sails Set» åpner Mats Eilertsen (kontrabass), Harmen Fraanje (piano, stemme) og Thomas Strønen (trommer) døra til et akustisk impro laboratorium der du som lytter kommer tett på der-og-dakomponering av solo-, duo- og trioforløp. Grunntonen er neddempet og kommunikasjonen ofte melodi- og klangsøkende, noen ganger med strålende resultat, andre ganger naturlig nok mindre engasjerende, men aldri likegyldig.
    – Dagbladet, Terje Mosnes 5/6 (N)

  6. That, when sitting down and listening properly, is the interesting thing about this CD. Most of the pieces are short, many are trios, but some are duos, some solo. They are all improvisations but ones intended to sound like compositions.

    The result is a thoroughly natural and unpressured recording session, and one which conveys its naturalness and relative serenity to the listener. There is searching here, of course, but not a lot of anguish.

    All three musicians put art and sound first, using their considerable technical skills as just the tools, not the means in themselves.

    It won’t be to everyone’s taste – it takes a little time, and repeated listens, to really get the most from it. But how good it is to hear some “free improvisation” that doesn’t sound like all other “free improvisation” seems to end up sounding like. There are no frenetic climaxes here, and precious few arc-ed dynamics from quiet and ruminative to loud and intense and back again. These three take more original routes than that.
    – The Jazz Breakfast (UK)

  7. The vastly experienced Eilertsen has a broad conception of what his instrument can achieve, and his colleagues (fellow Norwegian Thomas Strønen on drums and young Dutch pianist Harmen Fraanje) are equally expansive, creating short studies in rhythm and texture that sail past the orthodoxies of piano trio playing.
    – Irish Times, Cormak Larkin

  8. Mats Eilertsen Trio, Set Sails: Bassist Eilertsen has concocted an intriguing album, and he achieves it through some seriously delicate subtleties. He’s joined by pianist Harmen Fraanje and drummer Thomas Stronen (recently a Jazz Pick with his duo Food with Iain Ballamy). For the most part, this is a series of short tracks, almost like a parade of interludes, and each give brief glimpses of restrained beauty. Stronen’s percussion is often unexpected, and it’s his surprising choices that prevents this album from ever getting sleepy. An album that shimmers with emotion, and keeps some of that emotion hidden, which, ultimately, leads to much of this album’s intrigue. Just a beautiful recording. Recommended.
    – Dave Sumner / eMusic/Bird is the worm (USA)

  9. That Sails Set seems filled with purposeful intent and sense of structure simply means Eilertsen’s trio is looking to create music and not just aimless meandering.Sails Set represents palpable growth and even deeper empathy amongst the members of Eilertsen’s trio. There may be no charts, but this ship clearly knows where it’s going.
    –, John Kelman (CA/USA)

  10. Denne trioen leverer kollektive improvisasjoner med en uvanleg idérikdom og formsans(…)Plata har knapt ein likegyldig augneblink.
    – Dag og Tid, Lars Mossefinn (N)

  11. Mats Eilertsen är en alldeles utmärkt kontrabassist, ett lyssnande komplement till Fraanje då han hellre håller inne med en ton och en klang för att höja spänningen ytterligare. Han dröjer, avväger och siktar, och när han till sist släpper iväg tonen har han noga hunnit ta ut riktningen, och den landar som en perfekt pil i musikens bull’s eye.
    – Tidningen Kulturen (SE)

  12. Lågmäld allvarstyngd triomusik i den melodiskt vackra tonskalan. Som en både stilla och engagerande poesiafton upplever jag musiken, med känslofull innebörd.
    – Ljusnan (SE)

  13. Utruleg vakre songar.
    – Dagsavisen, Roald Helgheim

  14. Das Mats EilertsenTrio setzt sich aus dem norwegischen Bassisten Mats Eilertsen, dem SchlagzeugerThomas Strønen und dem niederländischen Pianiscen Harmen Fraanje zusammen. Dessen Piano bildet den klanglichen Mittelpunkt des neuen Albums »Sails Set«. Ruhig und tiefsinnig, so lässt sich am besten der erste Eindruck beim Hören beschreiben. Besonders auffallend ist dabei, dass es sich um ein >>improvisiertes Album« handelt. lmprovisation gehört zwar zum lazzwie der Dirigent zu einem klassischen Orchester, doch selten gelingt es so genial, das Resultat in all seiner Spontanität und Grenzenlosigkeit zu einem Album zusammenzufassen. »Sails Set« ist ein sehr entspanntes, musikalisch stimmiges Werk, bei dem leder Musiker seine persönlichen Momente hat, ohne sich jedoch mit seinem lnstrument zu sehr in den Vordergrund zu drdngen.Trotzdem ist es gerade das Klavier, das die Leichtigkeit des Klangs trägt.
    – Nordis 5/6 (DE)