Ketil Bjornstad / Svante Henryson: Night Song (2011)
When Bjørnstad and cellist Svante Henryson performed Night Songs at Kongsberg Jazz Festival 2010, there was an unmistakable thread between this music and Schubertrooted in a similar romantic linearity, but imbued with an icy melancholy that comes from living amidst the craggier and more rugged climes of Scandinavia. While Bjørnstad is, perhaps, better-known for his association with American cellist David Darling on earlier ECM discs like The Sea (1995) and Epigraphs (2000), his relationship with Henryson dates back a good few years, even if Night Songs represents their first recording together.
Defined by stark simplicity and a quiet majesty powered more by calm than energy, both Bjørnstad and Henryson value the purity of every note, and the resultant overtones when permitted decay to their inevitable conclusion. Neither seems compelled to speak more than is absolutely necessary, their discretion and unfailing choices defining qualities that allow Night Song's 16 original compositions (all but four by Bjørnstad) no shortage of interpretive unpredictability, despite never losing sight ofor respect forthe essence of each piece. Whether it's Henryson's sometimes epigrammatic ideationan arco swelling out of the space between Bjørnstad's chords, only to disappear as quickly as it appeared, on one of two versions of the title track that bookends the 77-minute discor a more serpentine melodism, on the quietly majestic "Melting Ice," where his controlled bow evokes harmonics with as acute precision as the plangent pizzicati that follow, the cellist's selfless approach to exploration is matched by Bjørnstad, whose touch has never been more delicate or assured, his ability to expand and contract time never so intuitive or organic.
That both Night Song and Remembrance (Bjørnstad's 2010 ECM date with saxophonist Tore Brunborg and drummer Jon Christensen) stand as career highlights amongst his extensive discography only suggests even greater things ahead for the approaching sexagenarian. As for the decade-younger Henryson, hopefully the broader availability of Night Song will place him on the same wider radar as his more internationally acclaimed partner.
Track Listing: Night Song (Evening Version); Visitor; Fall; Edge; Reticence; Schubert Said; Adoro; Share; Melting Ice; Serene; The Other; Own; Sheen; Chain; Tar; Night Song (Morning Version).
Personnel: Ketil Bjørnstad: piano; Svante Henryson: cello.
Record Label: ECM Records