Two years after the album Restored, Returned introduced this line-up and with extensive touring behind them, on The Well the four musicians of the Tord Gustavsen Quartet really blossom as a band in a programme of new tunes by the Norwegian pianist. Sax player Tore Brunborg is given an important voice here, his melodic lines combining bluesy sonority and Nordic cry. Gently but effectively propelled by the subtle pulses of drummer Jarle Vespestad and bassist Mats Eilertsen, Gustavsen's gospel-tinged, unhurried piano playing displays a characteristic warmth and tenderness.
Tord Gustavsen's ideas for The Well began right after the release of Restored, Returned at the end of 2009. "It developed very gradually, the repertoire kept adding new aspects slowly. In the course of these years I also had two commissions to work on, which turned out to fit very naturally in the material for the album. So even though I feel that The Well has become a very unified and coherent album, it still is a mixture of songs written individually and of pieces written as a commission for the 2011 Cheltenham Jazz Festival and pieces for the Oslo International Church Music Festival."
Tord Gustavsen has been one of ECM's biggest selling artists over the past decade. Tord's debut CD Changing Places, the first of three trio albums with Jarle Vespestad on drums and the late Harald Johnsen on bass, immediately created a huge international audience for his music, attracted by its sublime beauty, his hummable melodies, and the seamless interplay of the musicians. The Ground and Being There were even more successful. Restored, Returned added the blues-inflected voice of Kristin Asbjørnsen on Tord's settings of the poetry of W.H. Auden.
Personnel: Tord Gustavsen (piano), Tore Brunborg (tenor saxophone), Mats Eilertsen (double-bass), Jarle Vespestad (drums)
(4 stars) Gustavsen's signature ingredients...gospel playing, acres of open space, memorable melodies and a glistening delicacy of touch are all present. -- The Guardian, (John Fordham), February 17, 2012
(4 stars) The Well synthesises composer Gustavsen's high seriousness and groovy, gospel-tinged vamps...stately lullaby-themes given rhythmic momentum by Vespestad's drum'n'bassy whispers. -- The Independent On Sunday, (Phil Johnson), January 29, 2012
Enthusiasts of Gustavsen's spare, tender playing will find much to enjoy...quite possibly his most assured and satisfying recording to date. -- Jazz Journal, (John Adock), February 2012