Norwegian bassist & composer Mats Eilertsen has done his best to stay active during the pandemic. His previous solo album Solitude Central (Hemli, 2021) was drawn from his captivating improvised performance during the 2020 Norwegian Digital Jazz Festival. Hymn For Hope is a quartet album, with Eilertsen's compositions augmented by a few brief collective improvisations. He is joined by saxophonist Tore Brunborga member of the band Masqualero, as well as appearing on ECM albums by Tord Gustavsen and Mathias Eickguitarist Thomas Dahlwho previously played on Eilertsen's album Rubicon (ECM Records, 2016), with Eilersen in the Skydive Trio and led his own debut Thomas Dahl & Court: Quilter (Losen Records, 2019)and drummer Hans Hulbækmo (Moskus, Hanna Paulsberg Concept).
"Little Thug" opens the set with an easy swing feel, and a classic cool jazz tone from the saxophone. "K" is a rubato excursion, with melodic saxophone balanced by atmospheric guitar, until Dahl erupts into a fiery solo before being joined by Brunborg in a unison line. "Circle" makes an impressive entry with an ostinato pattern reflective of the title, and energetic solos from guitar and saxophone. The title tune establishes the hymn-like atmosphere of the album title while still retaining a rubato rhythmic feel until the very end, with an ecstatic saxophone theme fading into a gentle coda.
"M" is firmly back in rhythmic territory, with Dahl's guitar providing both atmospherics and a powerful solo. "Sunday" opens with a contemplative bass solo over a drone and a regular drum rhythm before ushering in a solemn theme, followed by sinuous saxophone and guitar solos. "August" exudes the expected warmth and sunshine, but there is also space for a sparse, rubato bridge. "Call" is the longest of the improvisations, led by keening saxophone and rumbling arco double bass, followed by the bracing rock of "First" (and its contrasting lyrical bridge). "X" concludes the set with atmospheric percussion and a guitar ostinato. After a typically melancholy theme the leader takes a final lyrical solo.
Eilertsen took the cover photo, an enigmatic black and white image of two people sharing a public space, but facing away from each other: together, yet apart. A fitting visual metaphor for his compositions and the empathetic playing of his band mates.
Little Thug; Oscuro; K; Sunrise; Circle Hymn For Hope; M; Sunday; August; Chiaro; Call; First; X.
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