Tord Gustavsen Trio

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Tord Gustavsen TrioChanging Places (ECM) From the ever-so-gentle musings of "Deep as Love," the opener on Tord Gustavsen's breathtaking debut, the Norwegian pianist/composer casts a disarming spell with his subtle grace and delicate beauty. It's easy to just surrender and float away on the music's wistful elegance, as Gustavsen has created a peaceful space far away from the tumult of our bustling lives. The pianist joins a long list of Scandinavian musicians, who for more than 30 years have created the pristine and stylized "Nordic" ambience that has largely defined the ECM sound. Contrary to the cold, austere character that's drawn criticism of the label over the years, Gustavsen exudes a flickering warmth and intimacy. Much of his experience has come as an accompanist for singers like Silje Nergaard, which may account for the strong melodic sense heard throughout the session. In particular, appropriately titled originals such as "Graceful Touch" and "Melted Matter" are simply haunting. Because of the music's endearing quietude, it's easy to overlook the contributions of Gustavsen's flexible rhythm section, bassist Harald Johnsen and drummer Jarle Vespestad. In an almost invisible fashion, they create shifting undercurrents that are more pulsations than drive. Only toward the end of the slow-rising "Ign" do they pick up enough steam to approximate what we might consider standard jazz time. No, you wouldn't characterize this as a party album, unless, of course, you were having the most intimate of celebrations.

****

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