Tord Gustavsen Trio
The Norwegian piano trio have emerged as major contributors to the European jazz scene in the last half dozen years. Only the Esbjörn Svensson Trio have made a greater impact, and both groups share not only a strong and distinctive musical identity, but also a real sense of being a fully integrated group. In trio music, that is an invaluable asset. Gustavsen’s piano playing (touching on references that range from Bach to Keith Jarrett, including occasional forays into Jarrett-like dances at the keyboard), may feel like the focal point of the group’s music, but the contributions of bassist Harald Johnsen and drummer Jarle Vespestad carry equal weight in the overall picture.
That was apparent again in their most recent album, Being There, the final piece in what the pianist saw as a linked trilogy following the earlier Changing Places and The Ground, all made for what is surely their spiritual home, the ECM label. The title was taken from a composition that appeared on The Ground, and had wider resonance for the pianist.
‘For me it meant being acutely present, aware and focused in the fullness of the moment. The group has a definite direction or sound, but there are still many nuances to explore. It’s about trying to play what you’d actually like to hear rather than what you think you ought to play.’
Being There contained all the hallmarks of their distinctive style – hymn-like melodies weaving through subtle and intricate harmonic structures, and spacious compositions that unfold in unhurried fashion. They made their debut in Scotland back in 2004, and were here most recently at the Glasgow Jazz Festival this summer. Their live set achieves a notable consistency of mood and feel that suggests a subtle and ever-changing extended suite rather than discreet compositions. (Kenny Mathieson)
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Fri 12 Oct