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on 15 October 2009
Oh, how I love the ECM and ACT labels! - I know that, without them, my musical life would be the poorer. As the owner of Tord Gustavsen's first three albums, I was interested to learn recently that his fourth would also include sax and vocal, and so I was curious to find out how this altered the familiar dynamic of Tord's trio. And I have to say I am both fascinated and very pleased with 'Restored, Returned'. The previous albums are beautifully minimalistic, subtle, relaxing... all these things. But if I was to offer any criticism (which I don't like to do), it is that, perhaps at times, their content can be a little repetitive (though, in the right mood, there is little to match their restrained beauty). This NEW album, however, is captivating in its diversity, and it is wonderful to hear the trio augmented so sensitively. The tenor and alto playing of Tore Brunborg is very individual in style and sounds so natural and effortless that it feels like someone quietly talking to me, just one to one. He does some beautiful things, and always in 'sync' with the other members of the ensemble. Kristin Asbjornsen's vocals might be seen, by some, as an 'acquired taste' - but, again, the flexibility in the way she uses her husky range is so interesting to listen to. The album seems to develop well (rather than petering out in quality) and I was delighted to reach the end with a great feeling of satisfaction. Gustavsen, Eilertsen and Vesperstad are superb on piano, bass and drums (so 'in tune' with each other) and, as ever with ECM, the production quality is pin sharp. As a lover of a wide range of piano trios (EST, Alborans, John Law, etc.) I would highly recommend this, but only if you are similarly drawn to the 'less mainstream' side of jazz and are prepared to listen with 'open ears'. Music that needs to be explored and examined is, in my opinion, far more rewarding than the obvious, which soon loses its appeal. This definitely demands repeated listenings and is now on 'repeat play' in my car. Very enjoyable indeed.
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on 24 November 2009
Although some highly respected jazz critics were unconvinced, in his trio of trio recordings with Jarle Vespestad and Harald Johnsen, Gustavsen created a near-perfect body of work. In a world awash with excellent piano trios Gustavsen's minimal melodic, perfectly crafted hymns were instantly recognisable.

Nonetheess, one can have too much of a good thing and, as other reviewers here have commented, a fourth such recording would have been overkill and Gustavsen has assembled an enlarged band featuring a new bass-player, Mats Eilertsen, excellent saxophonist Tore Brunborg and Kristin Asbjornsen, whose distinctive bluesy vocals feature on half the tracks (all setting of Auden's lyrics from "Another Time"), to create a noticeably different sound.

However, despite endorsing the need for change (hints of which were evident in the Trio's live performances in 2007), on the first few listens to "Restored, Returned" I was deeply equivocal. The presence of voice and saxophone seemed to suffocate Gustavsen especially as Asbjornsen's vocals often grated. Structurally, although one composition "Left Over Lullaby" appears in three guises through the album, the absence of voice and/or saxophone on some tracks created a lack of cohesion rather than a sense of variation.

Fortunately, repeated listens have cured me of my misgivings and revealed a work of, in the main, excellence. Proceedings begin beautifully with "The Child Within", with Brunborg producing his best work, atmospheric, haunting, prominent but not overpowering. "Way In" is a piano trio, very "Vienna Concert"-like with its rolled motifs and pronounced use of the lower register and quite unlike Gustavsen's previous work even before the false ending and stately bass solo.

However, while the musicians all play beautifully, the album slightly fades away After the last setting of Auden's words and the vocal tracks do not always match their ambition with execution - "Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love" is wonderful and "Restored, Returned" excellent but "Wrapped In a Yielding Air" treads a thin line between preciousness and indulgence.

In terms of future development, I think that Gustavsen cannot (as least not yet) return to a trio. I hope he will retain another instrument for at least the next release. While Brunborg deserves further exposure, I would love to hear Gustavsen play with Jakob Bro whose guitar graces Tomasz Stanko's recent "Dark Eyes" and was the product of Stanko's wish for a further instrument other than a saxophone. With these comments in mind, I was fortunate to see Gustavsen, Brunborg, Eilertsen and Vespestad play in London on Saturday and it was a wonderful concert, the ensemble playing old and new tracks (including a version of "Tears Transforming" with saxophone which sounded as sublime as the original) and if anyone doubts the wisdom of the new expanded sound, they should see the quartet live on its current tour, their sound "wrapped in a yielding air" indeed.
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on 26 March 2013
I'm an old hand and Amazon knows I like my jazz piano.

When "The Well" was offered as a recommendation I thought it was pleasant enough but didn't warrant a place on my bulging shelves. Similarly with "The Ground" and "Changing Places" which I found attractively melodic (and feared the refrain that would soon drive me insane).

It quickly became apparent from other customers' reviews that those who liked the above didn't like "Restored, Returned", so I thought I might and by God I do! It's not as challenging as the kind of post-modern jazz played by the likes of the Marsalis brothers or Greg Osby. The improvisations are abstract, but not wildly so. The drumming is rhythmic rather than whimsical and at times has a satisfying military rap to it. There's often a bluesy atmosphere, which is a necessity in jazz for me.

But to set Auden's poetry was brave and I absolutely adore Kristen Asbjornsen's delivery, switching as it does from a childlike purity one minute to an abrasive growl the next. She's almost like a mixture of Blossom Dearie and late Billie Holiday.

"Restored, Returned" was a shot in the arm for me, so thank you, Tord Gustavsen's regular fans, for recommending it by not liking it. Keep up the good work. I've just ordered "Being There" and "Wayfaring Stranger" by Asbjornsen.
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on 22 November 2009
Some of the reviews of Tord Gustavsen's latest CD seem to be predicated on the belief that once any musician has found a successful genre they somehow owe it to their audience never to move on. Music does not work that way. Think of how Miles Davis' and John Coltrane's output changed out of almost all recognition over their careers. Keith Jarrett's music continues to evolve. Not every step along the way will stand the test of time, but that does not invalidate an artist moving in (to quote Miles Davis) new directions.

Restored, Returned is a quality set and shows that Mr Guistavsen too is moving on. We should regard this CD as evidence of an artistic Work in Progress. I for one look forward to the next instalment.
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on 29 October 2014
The Tord Gustavsen Ensemble is a splendid thing. Restored, Returned is equally a splendid thing. Putting W.H. Auden's lyrics to Tord Gustavsen's compositions is inspired. This is worth listening to and waiting for.
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on 15 October 2009
I am really interested to find out what anyone else might make of this album.Having listened repeatedly to the three previous albums and listened to him live I took his output with me to a guesthouse in Vilnius during the summer-for some reason I had always imagined that his music would provide the perfect soundtrack to yet another visit to this beautiful city-I was proved right and again became totally immersed in his evocative and distinctly individual imaginings.Therefore this new album was more than eagerly awaited.I spent the whole of last night listening to it repeatedly and (yes I know it may be too early to judge)I cannot make any sense of it-it appears to me to be wilfully obscure and his fundamental sense of melody seems to have deserted him-am I the only one? the really worrying thing is I am also awaiting the new stanko album but having learned that he has dropped marcin wasilewski( who as a piano player I cannot praise too highly) do I face a similar degree of disappointment?
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on 18 November 2009
I just LOVE this cd-- very chilled jazz , have mixed it on my ipod with Rolf Lislevand Nuove Musiche for a laid-back play-list!
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on 5 November 2009
pre-ordered this as have the other 3 (great) albums but, after several sessions, actually quite dissapointed. Last 3 tracks are quintisential Tord but others are 'exploratory' in the most generous sense. Several tracks (3) are poetry (auden's) with musical accompaniment which in itself is a difficult genre to get right. To use the same vocalist to provide further vocal support to other tracks owes a lot (perhaps) to Norway's 'saomi' culture and it almost works, if that is what you were looking for in the first place. while one can only welcome back Tord and his new group, & congratulate him on his new family, one can only wish that, in being 'restored', he indeed seeks to 'return' and build on his career defining work.
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