Tord Gustavsen Trio ‘The Other Side’ CD (ECM) 4/5

Pianist Tord Gustavsen returns with a reflective trio album that in the first half focuses on his own fully matured composer talents, while in the second half, he adapts J.S. Bach original pieces for a jazz context, and in the process offers something different to the long tried and tested Jacques Loussier approach. Bach is that most jazz-friendly of early classical composers and as such ripe for re-evaluation.

On the wonderful Gustavssen original, ‘Re-melt’, it is the simplicity of thought that is communicated and to this extent, comparisons with EST are inevitable (though as a whole unmerited), and the unity of the trio is commendable. However, Tord Gustavsen departs from anyone else on the other worldy track, ‘Duality’, which features a bowed double bass and piano centre stage, with a gentle drum roll and atmospheric cymbals. Electronics come into play subtly on ‘Taste and see’, with a repeated motif on piano and the sound of a violin conjured up with the use of contemporary instrumentation. By contrast, the leader’s adaptation of a Ludvig Mathias Lindemann piece, ‘Kirken, den er et gemmelt hus’, has a strong early music undercurrent. Influences extend beyond to modal music and Spanish-tinged percussion on the adaptation of the traditional, ‘Igen vinner frem til den evige ro’.

The second half of proceedings are dominated by Bach and a particular favourite adaptation is, ‘Schlafer bruder’, which receives a distinctly modern update on the opus with gorgeous blues inflections, while the more austere sounding medley, ‘Jesu, meine Freude/Jesu, det eneste’, is more faithful to the original intent of the composer. Recorded at the Rainbow studio in Oslo, the trio music comes across as though it were being communicated from the very same room which you are listening to the music in, and this resolutely calming influence is reinforced by the rustic orange inner and outer sleeve. A fine start to the autumn for ECM, then, and another quality recording from Tord Gustavsen in trio format, and arguably the one that best suits his natural musical inclinations.

Tim Stenhouse