Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen continues to evolve the amalgamation of classical, pop and jazz languages into a cohesive modern jazz sound. Gustavsen has released six albums on ECM Records with his ensemble and trio; Changing Places (2003), The Ground (2005), Being There (2007), Restored, Returned (2009), The Well (2012) and Extended Circle (2014). Gustavsen has won the Norwegian Grammy Awards (Spellemannsprisen) and numerous other awards and prizes. Gustavsen spent many years focusing on the piano trio format, but since 2011, the quartet has been Gustavsen's major touring ensemble of choice. Gustavsen has become known for his ability to ...read more
The evolution of Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen and his relationship with ECM Records has always been more about expansion rather than linear forward motion. The closing sentence of an All About Jazz review of The Well (2012), in fact, says it all: If Changing Places  announced an important new pianist on the international stage, nearly a decade later Gustavsen's The Well reaffirms a trajectory which may move forward in circumspect increments, but move forward it does, with the inevitability of ripples in a pond." It's no surprise, then, that the third album to feature the pianist's ...read more
The quintessential quality of Tord Gustavsen's The Well (ECM), released at the beginning of 2012, immediately received elated reactions from jazz lovers and critics alike. Entwining a complex and very well-structured succession of moods, the album traverses the territories allotted to classical music and jazz, reaching far beyond those and leading the listener into a self-revealing experience of the most sensitive quality.Conducted just before a March, 2012 concert in Heidelberg, Germany's Holy Ghost Church, this interview represents a rewarding attempt to explore the musician's elusive world of sound, which unfurls its magic effect along a journey that wavers ...read more
Tord Gustavsen Quartet The Well ECM Records 2012 Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen may not have attained the level of success, say, of a Keith Jarrett or Chick Corea with his 2003 ECM debut, Changing Places, but it clearly struck a popular chord, as well as garnering no shortage of critical acclaim. Subsequent touring around the world, including a number of North American dates, honed the trio that would subsequently release The Ground (2005) and Being There (2007). But with its third ECM release, those who follow the German label knew that Gustavsen's next record ...read more
A spare beauty has characterized all of pianist Tord Gustavsen's trio recordings, and in this sense Restored and Returned is a natural continuation of his musical journey, with space and subtle dynamics characterizing these intimate compositions. What sets this recording apart from his most recent efforts is mainly the addition of vocalist Kristen Asbjørnsen, who brings a strongly personal, husky blues tone to the tunes she interprets, based on the poetry of W.H. Auden. Whether in duo, trio or quartet setting, the music is bound by a ruminative, brooding quality, as though looking into someone's deepest memories. The ...read more
With three albums mining a seemingly narrow area--and proving just how broad that territory really--Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen changes gears with Restored, Returned. Abandoning the longstanding trio that, with Changing Places (ECM, 2003), The Ground (ECM, 2005), and Being There (ECM, 2007), brought him greater international acclaim, Restored's quintet remains relatively introspective in tone. Still, with singer Kristin Asbjørnsen and saxophonist Tore Brunborg--whose recent Lucid Grey (DRAVLE, 2009) received its own share of well-deserved attention--Gustavsen's palette is expanded, allowing him to more fully realize the song-like proclivity that's been at the core of much of his writing. Gustavsen--who, ...read more
Tord Gustavsen Ensemble Royal Northern College of Music Manchester, England October 21, 2009
With the imminent release of Restored, Returned (2009, ECM) exclusively in the UK, Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen makes his British live debut with his new ensemble at Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music as part of a set of exclusive dates throughout the country. Returning percussionist Jarle Vespestad is joined by fellow esteemed countrymen bassist Mats Eilertsen and, augmenting the original trio setting, saxophonist Tore Brunborg to round out Gustavsen's new group. Delivering a program of older trio material and ...read more
Tord Gustavsen Ensemble, Kit Downes TrioThe ForumNorwich, UKOctober 18, 2009Pianist Tord Gustavsen is one of the more cerebral composers and musicians in contemporary jazz. His music is beautifully written and played--engaging, delicate and atmospheric--and although it always seems to be performed with restraint it can nevertheless develop a groove of its own, especially in the hands of Gustavsen's new Ensemble. Their gig, in the atrium of Norwich's Forum, was part of a major British tour. After three commercially successful and critically acclaimed trio albums Gustavsen's first Ensemble recording, Restored, Returned (ECM, 2009), ...read more
It's no surprise to fans of pianist Tord Gustavsen's trio that its most recent release, Being There (ECM, 2007), was selected as 2007 Album of the Year by the critics of UK's Jazz Review. Born in Norway, this jazz Viking may well be on a world crusade for soulful and meaningful music, armed only with his meditative piano and lyrical compositions.
AAJ contributor João Moreira dos Santos spoke with Gustavsen recently, about his background, how he came to be with ECM, the compositional process and future plans.
AAJ: Who is Tord Gustavsen? ...read more
The full measure of the achievement of pianist Tord Gustavsen's Being There can really only be gained by going back to his two earlier ECM releases, Changing Places (2003) and The Ground (2005). The phenomenal reaction to the first album was surprising and begs an explanation. The simplest would be that Gustavsen's music can sit quietly in the background, offending no one and providing soothing relief for this tempestuous world. While that would not be wrong, it does not explain the reaction of much of the press and the thousands of people who have ...read more
Since its 2003 ECM debut Changing Places, pianist Tord Gustavsen's trio has gradually been working its way out of a core concept that initially mined a surprising and remarkable wealth of what, on first glance, appeared to be a limited scope of tempo and dynamic. Like an ever-expanding series of concentric circles, Gustavsen, bassist Harald Johnsen and drummer Jarle Vesperstad have evolved their approach, introducing greater breadth so subtly that, unless one listens to previous albums including The Ground (ECM, 2005), one might think that little has changed. To say that Being There is the trio's most ...read more
Sure to be on many best of lists, The Ground is helping point the way forward for jazz music worldwide. The eleven chamber jazz tracks, all composed by Gustavsen, never stray far from blues and gospel music chords and voicings, and they produce a bountiful buffet. The piano trio adds a bit of Satie ("Tears Transforming"), a dash of flamenco ("Sentiment"), and a heaping of tango ("The Ground," Being There"), with Gustavsen's piano substituting for the bandeon, the accordion-like instrument central to the genre.
On Colours of Mercy" and Twins," the trio evokes comparisons to the playing style ...read more
ECM considers pianist Tord Gustavsen to be the least Nordic" of the several Norwegian artists on its roster. This is because his compositions, while typically pensive and austere, have also endeavored to incorporate the deepest roots of jazz in Afro-American blues and gospel. Musical and philosophical sophistication commingles with raw emotion and lyrical melodies, creating a sound that is at once cerebral, spiritual, and visceral.
The style that he and his longtime (relatively speaking, as Gustavsen is only 35) trio first unveiled on their 2003 debut Changing Places continues to be expanded here. Tears Transforming" parallels the work of Erik ...read more
Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen became something of a rock star in his own country after Changing Places (ECM, 2003) came out two years ago. The fact that a jazz record--particularly such a mellow, understated one--could rise above a mess of mass-market pop came as a surprise to just about everyone involved, but I guess it's a sign that the Norwegians have pretty good taste in music after all. The rest of the world caught on a little more slowly, but Gustavsen ended up doing quite well internationally with his debut, now well over the 60,000 mark.
Thus The ...read more
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