Sun 28 Oct 2018
8:00pm | €35/€32 + €1 booking fee
Sun 28 Oct 2018
8:00pm | €35/€32 + €1 booking fee

Kit Downes Obsidian with saxophonist Tom Challenger / Tord Gustavsen Trio

Kit Downes Obsidian with saxophonist Tom Challenger

Obsidian is the first ECM solo album from Kit Downes. Previously heard as pianist on the debut recording of Thomas Strønen’s group Time Is A Blind Guide in 2015, Downes (born 1986 in Norwich, UK) is widely-regarded as one of the outstanding British jazz players of his generation, through his work with his trio and with groups such as Troyka, the Golden Age of Steam and Enemy, as well as long running collaborations with Stan Sulzmann and Clark Tracey. Some of Downes’s earliest musical experiences were with the pipe organ and in recent years he has been revisiting it, encouraged by saxophonist Tom Challenger.

Tord Gustavsen Trio

Tord Gustavsen: piano, electronics
Sigurd Hole: double-bass
Jarle Vespestad: drums

Pianist Tord Gustavsen began his ECM tenure with three trio albums, released from 2003 to 2007, that enjoyed a remarkable confluence of popular and critical success. JazzTimes described this trilogy as having the potency of “distilled magic”, while the Guardian stated “Gustavsen’s tunes are hypnotically strong, and the integration of bass and drums in his regular trio is total.” In four further recordings for ECM over the past decade, Gustavsen explored the quartet format, as well as worked with an expanded ensemble and vocals. Now, for his return to trio with the album The Other Side, the Norwegian pianist has convened a new working group, which includes ever-faithful drummer Jarle Vespestad – a kindred spirit who has drummed on all of Gustavsen’s albums. There is a new bassist, Sigurd Hole, whose eclectic approach to his instrument – drawing on influences from folk music as well as modern jazz – makes him ideally suited to the pianist’s gradually developing, melodic pieces. The Other Side incorporates Gustavsen’s love for the church music of his village youth and the ancient folk melodies of Norway that have become a passion in more recent years. This mix of compositions and arrangements of chorales ranges from grave beauty to flowing dynamism, marked throughout by the trio’s seemingly telepathic chemistry.

Always subtle and lyrical, Gustavsen’s pianism has evolved in recent years to incorporate more modal playing, moving beyond chord changes; through his quartet work and his early experiences as a solo performer, his blending of composition and improvisation has also become freer, more seamless. Both of his trio mates have sensual sounds that complement his own. Sigurd Hole has a lyrical bent on bass, although his arco playing can be expressively percussive. “Sigurd also has a natural way of injecting modal Norwegian folk melodies into the music that makes the group’s connection to these roots stronger,” Gustavsen points out. “The old Norwegian lullabies and dance forms find their way in now almost without us thinking about it.”

Gustavsen and Vespestad, musical soul mates, have played hundreds of concerts together. “Early on, in our playing of ballads, we discovered this sense of micro-timing, and loaded minimalism – the feeling that the less we play, the stronger it gets – and this sense has evolved ever since. Now, we are also stretching out and using more dynamics, but this fundamental experience of ‘essence’ and reduction is always our point of departure. Jarle can groove in such an understated way and play so quietly that all the timbres of the piano can be heard. That said, he has such technical ability. It’s fascinating that beyond his groups with me, he often plays complex music with fierce tempos and a lot of volume and noise. A funny thing is that he’s so attuned to the lyricism in the trio’s music that I can often hear him humming the melody as he plays. That’s rare for a drummer and something that, as a composer, I find touching.

“I like to analyse and break things down in music, of course, but first and foremost, it’s about touching people in the way that I like to be touched in music,” Gustavsen concludes. “That’s the most meaningful part of all this for me, being moved and moving others.”

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