In spiritual parlance, "the other side" often refers to a realm beyond death. Tord Gustavsen is no stranger to integrating music to religious practice, performing frequent "Musikkmeditasjon" concerts in Norwegian churches. It would be reductive, however, to describe his music in New Age terms. Gustavsen is a master composer and improviser, and The Other Side is introspective music performed with sublime subtlety, always keeping one eye trained on the avant-garde.
This marks Gustavsen's first trio recording since Being There (2007) and continues his exploration of the more esoteric directions introduced in The Well (2012) and Extended Circle (2014). On those albums, tracks like "Communion" and "Entrance" expanded his musical vocabulary, with his quartet nimbly mingling Asian and Middle Eastern colors with gospel, blues, and Latin influences. One gets the sense that he intends to lead the listener to a transformed headspace with this trio, which includes longtime drummer Jarle Vespestad and ECM newcomer, Sigurd Hole, on the double bass.
Like Vespestad, Hole is a highly accomplished jazz musician in his own right. In addition to his solo albums, in 2018 he released his first album as trio leader, Encounters, and continues to comprise one third of the acclaimed Eple Trio. On The Other Side, his playing style often leans more toward fluid than percussive, filling the melodic role of saxophonist Tore Brunborg in Gustavsen's quartet recordings.
The album opens with "The Tunnel," perhaps alluding to the archetypal journey from life to afterlife. Its gently shuffling melody harks back to the gospel flavors of Being There even as it presses towards deeper emotions, probing despair and hope in succession. Alongside Gustavsen's own compositions are thrilling interpretations of Bach and Norwegian composer Ludvig Mathias Lindeman. After an atmospheric introduction of plucked double bass, Gustavsen transforms Lindeman's "Kirken, Den Er Et Gammelt Hus" from a solemn hymn to an animated, steadily grooving interplay with Hole and Vespestad. On the other hand, Bach's "O Traurigkeit" becomes churning and loose, an outpouring of passion which creates a breathtaking contrast to Gustavsen's often delicate quietude.
Though Gustavsen's coterie is slightly pared down for The Other Side, its sound is as rich as ever and represents a culmination of his musical explorations.
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.
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