Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: Tord Gustavsen at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Tord Gustavsen didn't swing at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall last week. He didn't even try. The Norwegian led a quartet through a hushed recital that conjured images of majestic icebergs and frigid urban landscapes.

The pianist's Nordic cool is typical of the approach associated with the jazz released by ECM Records. Gustavsen focused on material from his new album The Well. His set sounded more or less like this.

As I suggested in a recent review of an Enrico Rava concert, I'm curious about the way musicians recreate the ECM chamber jazz approach in live settings. The key to the quiet intensity of Gustavsen's concert was the highly stylized drumming of Jarle Vespestad. He contributed complimentary textures rather than keeping time. I dug it.

I was less comfortable with Gustavsen's vampire-like countenance. Because I'm not certain he's really isn't a Dracula-esque immortal, I'm almost glad I was seated near the back of the large auditorium.

An audience of approximately 750 also heard an opening set by Susanna Wallumrod. She and her two-piece band sounded like Tori Amos on a Terje Rypdal jag. This cover of Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak" wasn't on the set list, but it captures her sensibility. Wallumrod's music isn't my thing (at all), but I fully embrace the concept of jazz acts being featured on compatible cross-genre double bills.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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