La Fenice

Recording of the Month  November 2018

“So, who’s your favourite pianist, then?”

It’s a question most of us run from. But over many years I have become comfortable in naming Keith Jarrett as, if not “favourite” (because I enjoy the playing of great musicians from a variety of genres), then certainly one of the most extraordinary pianists alive.

So when a new album of his live improvised music is released, it jumps straight to the top of the pile, and likely becomes a very easy choice for “Recording of the Month”.

Happily for me (and for you) La Fenice is not simply an album of live outtakes from the vault, but another very special Jarrett release which demonstrate just why he is such an extraordinary and acclaimed musician. La Fenice Recorded live in concert on a single evening, La Fenice exemplifies everything that those in-the-know have come to treasure in Jarrett’s music. So let’s take a closer look…

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Tord Gustavsen Trio: “The Other Side”

Photo credit: Hans Fredrik Asbjørnsen

Recording of the Month   October 2018

Just as the great classical composers would often use the medium of the string quartet to explore new compositional ideas, techniques and directions, so jazz pianists have often produced their most exploratory work in the trio format.

One of the noteworthy recent exponents of the jazz trio is Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen. His Trio, featuring drummer Jarle Vespestad and bassist Harald Johnsen, toured between 2003-08, releasing three recordings, Changing Places (2003), The Ground (2005), Being There (2007), all on the ECM Records label.

Changing Places wasn’t, as it happens, my first encounter with Gustavsen’s playing; he had previously recorded sessions with fellow Norwegian chanteuse, Silje Nergaard, one of my absolute favourite singers. Gustavsen’s understated but deeply felt piano lines in her early recordings certainly made their impression on me, but hearing him let loose in a trio format really bought home the delicate brilliance and originality of his playing.

Following on from the three trio albums, which established Gustavsen’s voice as the preeminent lyrical pianist of the Nordic school, with colourful tinges of blues and gospel never far from the surface in his playing, he developed larger ensembles. The Tord Gustavsen Quartet added saxophonist Tore Brunborg, while the Ensemble added the vocals of Kristin Ambjørnsen.

And for his 2016 release What Was Said (my personal favourite, by the way) he was joined by German-Afgan jazz singer Simin Tander alongside regular drummer Jarle Vespestad.

Along the way, Gustavsen added experimentation with electronic instruments and treatments to his already gorgeous sonic palette.

The Other Side marks Gustavsen’s return to the basic format of the standard Trio after more than a decade of exploring these other musical possibilities. As I listened to preview track The Tunnel over the late summer, I wondered whether this new album would be somewhat a return to Gustavsen’s roots, or be markedly different from the earlier Trio albums ….

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