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Cirque Du Soleil
“Someone”
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(Cirque Du Soleil)
[listen] [buy] [download]

Patricia Barber
“Whiteworld/Oedipus”
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Cirque Du Soleil
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Jim Pearce
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Prairie Dog Ballet
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Andy Timmons Band
“Gone (9/11/01)”
Resolution
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Ralph Towner
“If”
Time Line
(ECM Records)
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Anoushka Shankar
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Rise
(Angel)
[listen]

Amos Lee
"Arms Of A Woman"
Amos Lee
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[listen]

Julius Curcio
"American Pie"
Alligator Shoes
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Lemon
"Come Alive"
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Rising Stars [Issue #14]
Tord Gustavsen Trio: From The Group Up
By Jason Sklar
The Ground (CD ECM)


Recently dubbed the #1 album on the Norwegian popular music chart, The Ground, The Tord Gustavsen Trio’s second release on ECM has achieved an impressive feat for any artist, let alone a jazz artist! Gustavsen presents tiptoeing piano jazz that repeats notes like Brad Mehldau, that wanders like Keith Jarrett, that gazes like the Bill Evans Trio with Scott LaFaro, but swings even more gently as if playing tapered endings of songs for entire tracks. Recently dubbed the #1 album on the Norwegian popular music chart, The Ground, The Tord Gustavsen Trio’s second release on ECM has achieved an impressive feat for any artist, let alone a jazz artist! Gustavsen presents tiptoeing piano jazz that repeats notes like Brad Mehldau, that wanders like Keith Jarrett, that gazes like the Bill Evans Trio with Scott LaFaro, but swings even more gently as if playing tapered endings of songs for entire tracks.

“We create a subtle funkiness which is a very melodic, romantic conception of contemporary jazz,” says Gustavsen. “It deals a lot with space and quietness. It is a very restrained, quiet kind of groove.” Housed in such relaxed musical settings, it may surprise some that the early marching bands of New Orleans have played a tremendous part in shaping the group’s approach to music.

Gustavsen nurtured his style by playing Baroque, Bach, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, as well as other French Impressionists and Neo-Classical artists. He also enjoys the more abstract way of interpreting melodies found in compositions of Debussy and Ravel. His counterpoints, inventions, and fugue playing have served him well as he now approaches jazz in a hymnal fashion, often investigating double and triple meters on top of entrenched rhythmic layers.

Their expressive minimalism has led them to stick to predominantly slower tempos. “During the years I’ve become more and more focused on playing the music I would like to listen to and not trying to prove your ability all the time,” says Gustavsen. “Our setting is very melodic and freedom-searching with strong sensuous foundations.”

Growing up only one hour outside of Oslo, Norway, the trio made an urban landscape readily accessible, while residing in a rural locale. “The fact that we are in a global cultural community and at the same time a little on the outskirts of it all shapes our perception and vision of what we hear,” he says.

“In life as in the music, I combine a very intense expressivity with a need for calmness,” says Gustavsen. “I am an intense person emotionally and I strive to find balance in good breathing and in not making stress in my life.”

“This is improvisation that really catches you in the moment wherever your inspiration leads you,” he says. Many musicians’ journeys entail torrential technical displays juxtaposed with tender ballads and medium tempos, but Gustavsen, along with bassist Harald Johnsen and drummer Jarle Vespestad, prefers the serene to bustling uptempos.

The trio integrates composition and improvisation so that the music does not feel pre-composed. Instead, they searchingly improvise, finding profound inspiration as they depart from the melody, while maintaining the integrity of the piece. As opposed to whizzing through heads to flaunt their harmonic dexterity, Gustavsen’s trio invokes melody to set the tone for performance that flows effortlessly from and resorts casually back to the original head. “We get our improvisations to respond to song and stay in the mood of the song,” says Gustavsen.

This music is about constructing a musical frame, yet never losing sight of the effort required to build it. “It is a matter of going for a musical moment as intensely as you can,” says Gustavsen. “We try to look for courage and stay there and be as humble as you can in relation to the moment. It is a quasi-religious thing to obey the musical moment as intensely and deeply as we possibly can.” Paradoxically, this musical constraint is what sets the trio free.

“We are trying to respond to the need for musical support in times of grief, but these are not hymns in the traditional sense.”

The Ground
ECM

From The Group Up Tord Gustavsen Trio The Ground


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