Thursday, 22 October 2009

Tord Gustavsen Ensemble

Just got back from another cracking evening at the RNCM. The Tord Gustavsen ensemble were truly superb.

Tore Brunborg on Tenor and Soprano saxophones ran the full gamut of his horns from a smoky subtone that was little more than musical breathing through the kind of plaintive keening that slices into you, to a beautiful, crystal-clear top register. Jarle Vespestad on drums was subtle and inventive, playing with the kind of musicality that goes way beyond mere rhythm. (I’m sure that Mats Eilertsen was also top notch but I must confess to finding it hard to get excited about the bass. Sorry.) The real hi-light though was Gustavsen on piano.

The elfin Norwegian seemed organically melded to his Steinway, by turns stabbing away a la Thelonius Monk and then deftly easing, coaxing, conjouring sublime beauty from his instrument. Melodic and mesmerising. Bleakly beautiful like a Scandinavian snowscape.

It’s testimony to just how good Gustavsen was that (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) I think I would rather have the trio than the quartet, yes it would have been even better without the sax. Saxophones have a way of taking centre stage, demanding that you pay them attention. This meant that Gustavsen himself didn’t feature quite so prominently as I would have liked. That’s not a criticism, it’s just about he highest compliment I can pay. If you get the chance check him out for yourself.


Geoff Colmer said...

Hi Glen! Good to hear from you again. I'm a serious fan of Tord Gusatvsen. I have the three previous CD's and I've heard him live which was the ultimate for me in 'chamber jazz'. Interestingly it was at the Jacqueline du Pre recital hall in Oxford. Last week I read about the new CD in the Guardianand heard that a quartet with voice were returning to Oxford tonight, but can't go. I bought the CD, and actually it was a huge disappointment, for the very reason you've just said. The trio is better than the quartet, and on the CD certainly better than the quartet with added voice, singing settings of WH Auden which I found irritating and intrusive. So unbelievably, I've returned the CD! However, I remain a devotee to the trio.

Glen Marshall said...

Geoff, I've always said you were a very perceptive man.

Craig said...

Now what do i do, I've got the other three albums and love them, might I really like the new one despite comments here, might i like it particualrly if i didn't know who it was and so come with certain expectations. I am very bad at getting round to returning CDs and i already have alot, maybe go and check out spotify first.

Good to have you back blogging

Glen Marshall said...

Based the gig I'm definitely going to buy it. Blackforest gateau is till an excellent dessert even if you'd rather have more cherries and less cream. If you get my drift!

tim f said...

I'm late on this - but got hold of one of their albums & have been listening to it over the last week or so. Good stuff, and will probably catch them live if they tour near me sometime.

Agree completely on the gateau metaphor - I'm off to see Alice in Chains tonight. Some purists claim their new album isn't worth having just because Layne Staley isn't in a position to sing on it. Nonsense: it might not be Dirt, but still pretty good.