Like a dusty, Southern gothic novel, Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen opens his return to the trio format with the moody, enigmatic "The Tunnel." All his compositions on The Other Side bare their secrets slowly and play out their methodically expressionistic hauntings with a gospel-influenced left hand seemingly rooted thousands of miles away in the muddy Louisiana delta.
Though Being There (ECM, 2007) was widely hailed yet often criticized as being cool in nature, The Other Side is a warm, whole-cloth adventure of spacious interiors, dug into and revealed with the kindred aid of stalwart drummer Jarle Vespestad and new bassist Sigurd Hole, who bears his love of dark contours and folk influences on his sleeve, creating a full, deft space through which the pianist leads his trio. Harald Johnsen, the trio's original bassist, died of an unknown illness at the age of 41 in 2011.
Gustavsen freely mixes the ancient music of Norway with his love of Bach, the pianist arranging three chorales for the album; amongst them, the Vespestad-led "Schlafes Bruder" integrates a deep groove that Bach may never have imagined.
Gustavsen brings all he's learned in the interim years, playing with fiddlers and Iranian musicians, to his writing. "Re-Melt" is powered by the pianist's melodic insistence and Vespestad's understated groove. The atmospheric rumination of "Taste and See," "Leftover Lullaby No. 4," and the closing "Curves" are simply beautiful, lyrical statements, taken at a pace that almost belies time.
The Tunnel; Kirken, den er et ganment hus; Re-Melt; Duality; Ingen vinner frem til den evige ro; Taste and See; Schlafes Bruder; Jesu, meine Freude Jesus, det eneste; The Other Side; O Traurigkeit; Leftover Lullabye No. 4; Curves.