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The Ground CD

3.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (31 Dec. 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: ECM
  • ASIN: B00065VPTO
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 99,507 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Product Description

'The Ground' is the eagerly awaited follow-up to Changing Places, the most successful ECM debut of the last decade! With 'Changing Places', young Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen not only captured the imagination of the world's jazz critics but immediately secured a huge international following. BBC Radio 3's Late Junction named the album 2003's `Record of the Year'.

Gustavsen's trio was already known from touring the globe backing popular singer Silje Nergaard, but it was the universality of the pianist's writing, the melodic hook-lines of his pieces and their deceptive simplicity, as well as a sense of easy, lilting groove that has helped the music speak to a vast audience.

Although Gustavsen's sound, with its emphasis on quietude and contemplation, partly reflects Scandinavian directions, the trio is the least "Nordic" of all ECM's Norwegian groups. Its big influences are from early jazz, gospel music, the blues, Afro-Caribbean music, and from such singers as Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. These earthy influences, filtered through a European sensibility also touched by impressionist composers gives the Gustavsen Trio its unique cachet.

'The Ground', as its name implies, is yet more earthy than it predecessors and its blues influence nearer the surface. The sound is mellow, caressing, sensual. The melodies are strong and simple - once heard they remain in the mind. The music's clear structure allows Gustavsen, bassist Harald Johnsen and "expressive minimalist" drummer Jarle Vespestad plenty of space for improvising that is always restrained, subtle and tasteful.

Recorded 2004

Personnel: Tord Gustavsen - (piano), Harald Johnsen - (double-bass), Jarle Vespestad - (drums)

BBC Review

Following up the excellent 2003 debut Changing Places is a difficult task. This Norwegian pianist has written another collection of extremely carefully-judged illuminations, produced by Manfred Eicher and recorded in Oslo's Rainbow Studio. As before, the combined effect is supremely calming. It has a kind of pre-meditated tentativeness; adeliberate uncertainty.

Gustavsen describes his pieces as often having the character of 'wordless hymns', growing out of the blues or gospel traditions. But some of these melodies have a Moorish or Oriental exoticism, just as much as they sound like products of the Stateside plantation or church.

The pianist prefers his trio's improvisations to grow organically out of the entire tune, not demarcated into specific 'solo' durations. Gustavsen employs what could be deemed the essential vocabulary of lounge piano to sensitise his studied phrases, turning them into something infinitely more profound.

Often, the listener can home in on very tiny details, not noticed at first. On "Twins", drummer Jarle Vespestad has a delicately rubberised skip to his snare work, whilst bassist Harald Johnsen catches an odd pinging repeat during "Kneeling Down".

Some of these numbers sound strangely familiar, as if Gustavsen is investigating standard material, or even works that have a life in film or on television. When his perverse Americanism does surface, it's because he's hinting at shadows of bland notes, transformed into fittingly romantic moods.

The soloing is so decelerated that it sounds like composition. The writing could be fixed, or very fleeting and insubstantial. The trio's gift is that it's impossible to know for sure, and even attempting to do so is a dubious proposition. Why try to quantify an atmosphere? Who needs to grip hold of a category? This album doesn't elicit a fixed, strong response, like its predecessor. It floats between shallow and deep. --Martin Longley

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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I'm not a big jazz fan but heard Tord Gustavsen on Late Junction and was blown away (or more wafted on a gentle breeze). This is an incredible album of soulful, controlled and wistful piano playing which will appeal to anyone looking to escape for an hour or so.
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I was fortunate enough to hear the trio play much of this music live at the Lichfield Festival. Two friends who are not great jazz fans enjoyed it as I did. The music is immensely approachable without being bland. It is subtle and inventive and highly atmospheric. I was intrigued to hear Tord Gustavsen introduce numbers such as 'Colours of Mercy' as hymns. The atmosphere they generate, both live and on disc is something close to contemplative worship. I strongly recommend this unusual and highly distinctive music.
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I came upon this CD through recommendation at an Esbjorn Svensson Trio gig, and I have to say that it rewards the active listener. It may be slower and more introspective than the rest of the ECM output, but having a varied catalogue is obviously of great importance to record companies. If you're just going to buy it because it's on your favourite label, don't bother. If you like Scandinavian jazz (E.S.T., Eivind Aarset Trio, etc.) then buy this - and ignore the fact that they're not signed to ACT!
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Format: Audio CD
I bought this after hearing a classical concert pianist say she found Gustavsen inspirational. For her virtuoso playing should be emotional - its not all about flying finger theatrics - and Gustavsen delivers exactly that.
I just don't tire of this
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Pianist Tord Gustavsen and his partners Harald Johnsen (bass) and Jarle Vespestad (drums) have staked out their own distinctive piece of ground in a land that straddles the borders between jazz, church music and conservatoire music. The Ground explores in more depth the territory that was first plotted out in the trio's first release, "Changing Places".

The Ground is a gorgeous set of pieces, some more churchy (The Ground), some more funky (Curtains Aside) and some more lyrical (Tears Transforming) but all played with warmth and faithful attention to the quality of touch as well as the quality of sound. And the loving attention the guys pay to what they're playing induces the same response in their audience. At a recent concert, I have never felt an audience pay such rapt attention. As my piano teacher (a performing harpsichordist) remarked, it's music that really draws you in.

All of the pieces have a clear melody, theme or riff that you can hum after a couple of listens. All are reflective, none is busy or challenging in a "pushing the boundaries" kind of way. A casual listener might even praise (or condemn) the whole thing as "easy listening", because it's certainly not hard. Yet it all challenges the listener to forget labels, comparisons and other mental fidgets, and to just open up and listen to the sounds unfold. There's a depth of beauty in here that I've found in few other places.

An easy comparison would be Keith Jarrett - easy but misleading. Tord Gustavsen is much closer in spirit to the majestic Abdullah Ibrahim.
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Beautiful, inventive, introspective piano trio. Jazz chamber music. Excellent to listen to and grows with each hearing in my experience.
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My discovery of the year, first time I've considered the spaces between notes to be an integral part of the performance !
Love it or hate it - I tend towards the former.Working my way through the entire catelogue.
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