The jazz piano trio format contains a universe of possibilities. It took me a long time to appreciate that after years of seeking what I thought was more adventuresome music. Perhaps it’s a function of maturity, akin to growing into a greater appreciation of classical chamber music after pushing hard for the avant garde. Or perhaps it was hearing some of my favourite “out there” players reining it in on quiet jazz standards and hearing them anew.
Norway’s Tord Gustavsen Trio released Changing Places on ECM in 2003 and at first listen I considered it too “candle lit dinner” for my tastes. Then I noticed the presence of drummer Jarle Vespestad who I’d last seen here with Norwegian improvising supergroup Supersilent. I gave it a closer listen and felt compelled to slow down and appreciate the delicacy and precision that propelled the unabashedly romantic set of carefully crafted tunes. Pure loveliness from start to finish! I’ve since picked up all of his subsequent recordings and saw him play a remarkable set with Simin Tander at the 2015 Jazz Fest (see my earlier post on this). That is when I came to fully appreciate Tord as a compelling live performer.
Tord has a new CD out on ECM titled The Other Side and it continues in the warm, melodic vein of its predecessors. However it does begin to explore around the edges a little more. There appear some welcome and unexpected left turns particularly on Duality. And Left Over Lullaby No. 4 possesses a kind of devastating beauty that relishes the presence of haunting shadows among the melodies. As well, there are arrangements of two pieces by J.S. Bach and two arrangements of traditional tunes. Overall the music feels a little looser, a little darker, and more insistent overall. Gone is any sense of preciousness surrounding the notes.
Live, this trio smoulders and ignites in perfect measure and they are a delight to watch. They are performing on September 29th at the Blue Shore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts, 2055 Purcell Way, North Vancouver. It should be a season standout and well worth the trip across the inlet!