BY LAURA DAMASE
Known as one of the best Scandinavian pianists since the early 2000s, Tord Gustavsen started his conquest of the American West only a few years ago. In 2005, he played for the first time at the SF Jazz Center, along with his two musical partners at that time; together they were the Tord Gustavsen Trio. After five years playing as with this trio, the talented pianist started an ensemble, which also carried his name and lasted for two years.
Last Wednesday, Gustavsen returned to the SF Jazz Center with his current quartet. This time he was accompanied saxophonist Tore Brunborg, double bassist Mats Eilertsen and his loyal drummer Jarle Vespestad. A soothing atmosphere prevades in Tord Gustavsen’s quartet records, as well as a strong passion that seems to dwell deep inside the pianist during his performances; a passion which dances with his immeasurable delicacy.
The show started with lonesome, sweet piano notes, progressively followed by other instruments. Enchanted by the melody, Gustavsens’ body appeared to be steered by an invisible element. He tossed his head, stomped his feet to the beat of the music, and sometimes even stood up while playing! At times he played with only one hand while gripping the piano with his other hand, like if he was afraid his instrument would vanish. Tall and slender, this 43 year-old-man exudes an exceptional presence. His long thin fingers indulged in a fiery dance on the keys. “Now those musicians are going to sing with their instruments” he said after a few minutes–and that is exactly what they did!
The piano notes harmoniously mingled with the saxophone, while the drummer slightly brushed against cymbals, making them sound like a gentle caress. In the background, the huge double bass peals resounded like ancient voices: hoarse, reassuring and solemn. Little by little, a smooth atmosphere enveloped the entire room. The whole audience felt like being a part of the musicians’ collusion; transported to mellow environment, people let themselves feel an absolute sensation of relief. In the end, the ensemble takes listeners away to the soft world of European Jazz.
If you want to pretend for a minute that you know more than we do about music, go ahead, send us your thoughts. Hit us with your best shot, we dare you.