Window Seat: At High Altitude With Luminaries of Norwegian Jazz | Solid State

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Window Seat: At High Altitude With Luminaries of Norwegian Jazz

Posted By on Mon, Jun 9, 2008 at 5:18 PM

In the coming weeks, you'll notice a new voice or two contributing to the cyber-pages of Solid State — in addition to myself and the lovely and talented Bridget Burns. At the moment, we have an abundance of freelance music writers adding their two cents to the the physical manifestation of the paper, and with only two CD reviews per week, the workload is a little light. So in an effort to give the newbies something to do — and to help keep their chops in order — we thought, "why not unleash them on the blog?" We couldn't come up with a good reason not to, so I'd like to introduce Mr. John Pritchard.

Solid State, John. John, Solid State. Welcome to the fray.

DB

*******

Munich-basedimprovisational jazz label ECM Recordsis releasing to some of the most remarkable music being made in the world rightnow. That’s a bold statement, yes. But one that can be made with confidence. Itis perhaps better said that they have beenreleasing remarkable music, several hundred records across numerous styles,incorporating a vast group of artists since their inception in 1969.

Many a friend has shirked at theprospect of improvisational music,let alone jazz from Norway,upon my introduction of the idea. But few have been disappointed afterlistening. I doubt there is a music lover of any genre who would not appreciate the work of the Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen, leader of the eponymous TordGustavsen Trio.

The Trio’sthree ECM releases, Changing Places(2003), The Ground (2004)
and Being There (2007) can unflinchingly bedescribed as melodically groundbreaking
– an apogee in the long evolution ofnot only the piano, but of human sound.

Gustavsen’spiano is ravishingly expressionist – it bends; it levitates. Songs like
“Still There” and “Blessed Feet” off last year's Being There are, in moments, conspicuously traditional jazz. Until they plunge into esoteric lows or ascend to magically biting trebles.

Since its release (and despite its title), I have made the trio's seminal album The Ground my listening choice each time I am on boardan airplane. There is something that correlates the delicate double bass of HaraldJohnsen and cold cabin air; something in Jarle Vespestad's spare but faultless drumming
that is perfect for cruisingaltitude. It is a sound that, although unadorned, manages to somehow embody thevery essence of modernity.

Everyartist on ECM is worthy of exploration, however audio samples are (strangely) notavailable for listening at their homepage. But here are links to some particularlyinteresting ECM artists: TordGustavsen Trio, the ChristianWallumrud Trio and Trygve Seim.

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John Pritchard

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