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Tord Gustavsen Trio - Opening (ECM)

6 April 2022

Over the past two decades, Norwegian jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen and his trio have quietly become some of ECM’s biggest stars on the Scandinavian side. That’s not only due to the volume level of his work – anyone expecting Cecil Tayloresque firestorms or McCoy Tyner-style bombast should look elsewhere – but because of his sheer musicality. On Opening, Gustaven pens contemplative tunes that invite introspection, pursuing ethereality while remaining grounded in jazz earthiness. The title track is a great example, luxuriating in the atmospheric chamber jazz aesthetic for which ECM has rightly become known, while still adding that element of blues that unmistakably marks it as within the jazz tradition. Despite ending with a quote from the traditional Swedish folk song “Visa från Rättvik,” “Findings” subtly swings, bringing its rhythm to a boil thanks to the wonderfully understated but assertive drumming by Jarle Vespestad. Plenty of the tunes simply don’t worry about genre fidelity – “Fløytelåt/The Flute” and “Stream,” which features an extended solo from bassist Steiner Raknes, just soak themselves in their own beauty. Even better is “Ritual,” a misty shimmer of a track led by Gustavsen’s insistent chords and Raknes’ ghostly arco work that doesn’t fit easily into any musical box. Like a lot of Scandinavian jazz musicians, Gustavesen and his crew carve out a distinctive niche in the jazz firmament, and Opening presents them at their best.

 

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