Ketil Bjornstad: La Notte (2013)
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Recorded live on July 21st 2010 at the Molde International Jazz Festival, Norwegian pianist Ketil Bjørnstad's La Notte is an eight piece suite inspired by the 1961 drama of the same name by the great Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni. It is not, however, a mere Antonioni tribute, but an homage to innovative filmmakers in general and in a way to the art of cinema itself.
Opening with haunting strings and Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazur's rumbling beats the first movement sets an expectant and dramatic ambience that Bjørnstad's own sparse notes enhance. German cellist Anja Lechner's long, somber tones fill the space with an achingly gorgeous and reserved lament. Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen adds a touch of mysticism with his agile, oud like improvisation.
The music takes a poetic bent as British saxophonist Andy Sheppard's serpentine soprano states the theme on part two in relaxed, mellifluous refrains. This leads to Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset's reverberating emotive solo whose passion is matched by Sheppard's own expansive soaring sax. Mazur's rich and colorful polyrhythms conclude the track.
The album goes through many moods, from Sheppard and Lechner's alternating spirited dances that melt into a melodic and whimsical group play on the third section to the breathtaking climax of the seventh passage. The latter emerges immediately out of the intensely intimate cello/bass conversation that closes the sixth with an elegiac beauty. Andersen goes from lyrical pizzicato to fiery acrobatics leading a turbulent and spontaneous ensemble expression replete with his wordless humming. Sheppard's acerbic, free flowing lines echo Aarset's scorching sonic swells that flow freely over Mazur's energetic, angular drums.
There are also exquisitely tender moments on the record. The warm, comforting sound of Lechner's lilting bowing and Sheppard's breathy tenor over Bjørnstad's undulating shimmering phrases and Mazur's chiming, sparkling cymbals and bells evokes a harmonious domestic scene on "IV." This contrasts nicely with the almost Baroque, stately motif of the fifth segment of the opus. Lechner and Sheppard intertwine their respective extemporizations like a lovers' embrace on the ethereal, almost spiritual "VIII." Aarset's electronics enhance the otherworldly atmosphere memorably bringing the album to a close.
Much like the works of the cineastes that have inspired Bjørnstad's stimulating and captivating composition, its intellectual and emotional impact lasts long after the disc has stopped spinning.
Track Listing: Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII; Part
Personnel: Ketil Bjørnstad: piano; Andy Sheppard: tenor and soprano saxophones;
Eivind Aarset: guitars,
electronics; Anja Lechner: violoncello; Arild Andersen: double bass;
Record Label: ECM Records