Mats Eilertsen: Turanga (2005)
Turanga is a low-key but intense album that is evocative of states of mind rather than sound images. The publicity sheet that came with the record has "(movement, rhythm, flow)" next to the title, and the recording certainly has those components in spades. While on the whole it has a Middle Eastern/Southeast Asia feel, it is mostly covert, except on "Oasis, and perhaps "Gamelange. Otherwise, the sense of place is subconscious. The players are from Northern Europe, specifically Norway, Sweden, and Holland, and so their musical "journeys are built from their perceptions of foreign places (rather than indigenous life experience) and sometimes the musical scales used there.
Harmonically, each piece is basically static, with perhaps a short turnaround phrase. Interestingly, "Oasis, the track which can most closely be associated with a region, has a theme that keeps popping up which sounds distinctly English to these ears, creating an interesting clash of aesthetics.
The mix of instruments is particularly intriguing in that Reijseger's cello is used both as a contrast (plucked and bowed) to Ljungkvist's reeds and as a solo instrument (also both plucked and bowed). Ljungkvist can get a wonderful, crystal clear sound from both sax and clarinet, but he also can produce harmonics and multiphonics. Underneath, Eilertsen's bass provides gentle support, many times producing a singing line, while Stronen's drums and percussion are either providing a supple beat or percussive sounds that play the part of another soloist.
The structure of the album is sort of like a suspension bridge, with "Rica and "Solitude (an original, not the one Billie Holiday sang so well) holding up the ends with memorable and pretty themes played by sax or sax and cello in unison. Upon an initial listen, "Rica might seem to signal a big record, one with grand gestures, because of the mood and slowness of perceived time. But that doesn't really happen, and instead we are given intimate vignettes. "Solitude is perhaps the most overt "mood piece, and it reflects its title, providing a fitting ending for the album. Between these is "Sweet Snowflakes, which is the closest thing to what might be called a "standard jazz track, but with a static or oscillating harmony, except for the bridge, making it feel a bit out of place.
All in all, time just flies by as each track exposes its charms, and the overall effect of Turanga is engrossing.
Track Listing: Rica (5:09), Oasis (5:30), Ambush (4:51), Sweet Snowflakes (8:59), Gamelange (1:51), Sukha (4:29), Monsoon (0:55), Visby (5:12), Impal (1:41), The Trade (3:38), Turanga (4:14), Solitude (5:56)
Personnel: Mat Eilertsen - bass, Ernst Reijseger - cello, Fredrik Ljungkvist - sax and clarinet, Thomas Stronen - drums and percussion