The Guardian 7 May 2004
16/06/2004 :: Djanogly Recital Hall,
(two out of five stars)
Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen is a recent signing to the ECM record label. His trio's debut album, Changing Places, has recently won Radio 3's CD of the year award, so his first UK tour is attracting large, curious audiences. In Nottingham expectation was running high, but at the interval one woman leaned forward to murmur to her friend, "Don't you think it sounds a bit like Hot Chocolate?" A passing resemblance, perhaps, but with more than a hint of Elton John (think Song for, Guy with extra
twiddly bits). Quite why this music has curried such favour at Radio 3 is some-thing of a mystery, although to be fair it does have a few redeeming features. The opening number Tears 1fansforming began with all the luminous qualities of a Satie miniature. Hunched low over the keyboard, Gustavsen made every note count while his two co-musicians – Harald Johnsen on upright bass and Jarle Vespestad on drums -provided astonishingly delicate accompaniment. The second tune, Twins,
also got off to a good start, its major-to-minor chord sequence evoking images of Sun and rain, its aura of romance wrapped up in a Chopin-like elegance. But then the misgivings began to creep in. Unlike many young jazz composers, Gustavsen clearly understands the need for a memorable theme or two. His development of those themes is another matter; there were moments of Paul Bley-like ingenuity, but also a large amount of repetition and self-satisfied purring. On at least one occasion it sounded like we were listening to the back-ground music to a seduction scene from a David Niven film. In view of the praise and awards that have already been heaped upon Gustavsen, it's probably best that detractors speak their mind with caution. After all, Chopin himself was once accused of insipid prettiness. Although he never soundedlike Hot Chocolate.