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There are some great lyrical contemporary jazz pianists: Bobo Stenson, Enrico Pieranunzi and Esbjorn Svensson to name a few and Gustavsen proves himself of comparable quality. His music is much less upbeat and swinging than either Pieranunzi's or Svensson's in their different ways and is closer in its elegiac qualities to Stenson's recent output.
The piano is very much the lead instrument here and Gustavsen is given the space to express himself. That said, Harald Johnsen is a very nimble and unintrusive bassist and Jarle Vespestad's flickering, precise and complementary percussion is of the top drawer. These two instruments are noticeable in their absence on the closing solo piano version of the aptly-titled Song of Yearning a full rendition of which is the fulcrum of the album.
The finest song is the especially evocative Graceful Touch but the melodic invention and atmosphere are sustained over the full 66 minutes. On this point, it is all too easy to take ECM's production techniques for granted, but once again the purity of sound is exceptional.
The majority of ECM artists have lengthy careers with the label. Let us hope that the Tord Gustavsen Trio are no exception.
It is subtle, lyrical and lilting in a way that draws you in and holds your attention and breath.
It feels like a summer day, lying on a green lawn listening to the wind slipping through the trees above.
Tord gives the impression he has absorbed latin jazz and twisted and mutated it into something much, much gentler and nuanced.
This is potentially the biggest problem with the album; the pace varies little and each song is infused with such melancholy that some people may find it a little dull. However, listening closely reaps massive rewards. The music is almost universally very quiet, so devoting one's whole attention to it helps. And in fact, whilst all their songs are powerful, they are not full of such despair as may be immediately apparent.
All three musicians are clearly virtuosos. In concert, Gustavsen leans close over the keyboard, feeling every note; listening to this CD and without being able to see this, the listener nonetheless gets the impression that musician and music are completely intertwined, but is at least as likely to be impressed by his sheer technical ability.
Drummer Vespestad, in his spare time a skinhead thrash-metal musician, proves himself to have a wonderful sensitivity, sometimes playing so quietly (with brushes or his fingers) that the listener must strain to be sure a sound was played at all. Johnsen, meanwhile, adds able support much of the time but is able to produce intricate melodies from his instrument sounding more like a guitar than a double bass.
Subtle yet profound, this album resolutely refuses to hurry yet never threatens to be boring, simply because it is so beautifully expressive.