Rising Stars [Issue
Tord Gustavsen Trio:
From The Group Up By
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.
dubbed the #1 album on the Norwegian popular music chart, The Ground,
The Tord Gustavsen Trios 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 groups approach to
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 Ive 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
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
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, Gustavsens 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
We are trying to respond to the need for musical support in
times of grief, but these are not hymns in the traditional sense.