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Monday, February 10, 2014

CD Review: Tord Gustavsen Quartet - Extended Circle

Tord Gustavsen – Piano, Tore Brunborg – Saxophones, Mats Eilertsen - Double Bass, Jarle Vespestad – Drums.
(Review by Steve H.)
Norwegian jazz tends not to be the wild swinging sort of music that originated from New Orleans;  in fact when you hear of Norwegian blues I’m sure  many people think of the legendary Monty Python parrot sketch . This album by Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen, his sixth for the ECM label, will not disavow you of any preconceived ideas about the Nordic interpretation of this musical art form. However,  for those who appreciate subtle, meditative, atmospheric and thought provoking music,  I can thoroughly recommend you give this genre a listen and hopefully it will have you ‘pining for the Fjords’.
We are lulled into this album with Right There a slow and gentle introduction played by the rhythm trio. The next song is a take on that well known Norwegian Hymn Eg Veit I Himmerik Ei Borg (A Castle in Heaven), the rhythm section take the early lead with Vespestad featuring prominently on snare, ushering Brunborg to perform a soaring emotional sax solo. Entrance is a short stark minimalist piece. The Gift , another trio piece is a mellow meditative ballad. Staying There, within  the context of this album,  is a lively funky number although even the ladies of Hoochie Coochie might struggle to dance to it. Back on calmer territory with Silent Spaces  which does what it says on the tin. A reprise of Entrance with more haunting Saxophone from Brunborg leads into Devotion another piece inspired by sacred music and if my local church offered peaceful inspired music like this I would be a regular attendee. The Embrace is almost a jolly tune and builds to a quite rousing, might I say, uplifting finale. The penultimate track Glow,  a powerful brooding quartet number, is preceded by  a short solo from bassist Mats Eilertsen  Bass Transition. The album finishes as it began with the return of the trio in The Prodigal Song  to send us away relaxed and calm as if we had just  spent a very rejuvenating  hour in the sauna. 
Steve H.

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