Tord Gustavsen Trio

DAVID WAKEFIELD The Forum, Norwich


The Forum, Norwich

Think of the great jazz piano trios - Peterson, Jarrett, Evans to name but three - and consider whether this Norwegian line-up has any right to be mentioned in the same breath. In my view it does; but not in any sense comparing like for like. In today's jazz world, this highly integrated unit has a valid contribution to make.

The word “integrated” is relevant, for it is the work of the trio as a whole, and not just pianist Gustavsen with rhythm backing, that is important. As a leader, he shows us no keyboard pyrotechnics.

Gustavsen, rather, takes a melody and caresses it into life, rather like a great chef preparing a cordon bleu meal. Bassist Harald Johnsen and drummer Jarle Vespestad don't just play supporting roles in all this, but add to the flavours on the table.

It is all too easy to dismiss Gustavsen as a kind of keyboard doodler, for his work has an understated feel that is deceptive. But don't think for a moment that this guy cannot play: in numbers like Blessed Feet he is positively funky; in others, the quirky Hobson's Choice, for example, he displayed a strong gospel feel that was almost infectious. The fact that this number was named after a bitter beer the trio discovered in Somerset endeared them to me further.

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Most of the music in this concert was taken from his recent album, but one of the two encore numbers, The Other Side of Tango, has yet to be committed to CD.

If Gustavsen was seeking any kind of “trailer” for his next release, this would have done nicely, for it displayed a lot of humour - a quality that obviously lurks behind a cool Scandinavian façade.

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