EDP24 8 May 2004
Given the almost palpable stillness of the Norwegian trio's ECM album, Changing Places, it was always going to be a challenge to reproduce that concentrated tension in a live setting. But, then, the Tord Gustavsen Trio is no ordinary group of musicians.
To gain the level of empathy and almost second sight that they have achieved requires precisely what Harald Johnsen (bass) and Jarle Vespestad (drums) have in spades.
Gustavsen's compositions have an almost studied coolness. When he swings, it's in the style of Bach, not Basie. Yet there are the occasional blue notes – of the very palest blue.
He plays almost-there tangos, the subtlest of funk riffs and the daintiest of Latin rhythms while Johnsen plumbs the bosky depths of his bass and Vespestad, eyes closed, lets his brushes caress the cymbals and snare.
This trio's performance depends for its effect on a corporate understanding and anticipation. When they play, the notes hang, almost suspended in the air. This is cool. Very cool indeed. But completely involving and absorbing at the same time.
Don't be fooled by the air of supposed detachment. Everything this trio plays is forged with passion, it's just that they use musical ice picks to achieve it. Maybe this is the start of a musical revolution – a quiet start, mind you.