Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 11, No.3, 2012

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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David Solway
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Sylvain Richard
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: TORD GUSTAVSEN



Defying tradition and geography, Norway (Oslo 60 N.), a country of five million, has become one of the hot spots in jazz. Its music, born in the extremities of the sun’s give and take, is as purposeful and clear as a cobalt-blue sky on a brisk summer day. For listeners for whom “break on through” and ambience are at a premium, the long trek north is more than handsomely rewarded at the end of the jazz festival season.

As a continuously morphing musical form that holds up a mirror to the world as it turns (or spins out of control), we shouldn’t be at all surprised that jazz has travelled a long way since it was founded in New Orleans at the turn of the twentieth century. If we quite naturally associate early New Orleans jazz with Dixie where hot and humid predicted hotter than July jazz, what does climate foretell of Norwegian jazz? Do cool and remote translate into a kind of polar-blue jazz, or an identifiable north-of-60-sound we can wrap our ears around?

The 33rd edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival (June 28th to July 7th) will be exploring just that -- and Norway’s very special contribution to jazz -- in its celebrated Invitation Series, where every year an established musician is invited to perform a series of concerts in a variety of combos over a four day period.

This year’s special guest is pianist Tord Gustavsen (Oslo), whose very particular soundscapes have won him significant critical acclaim as well as an international following.

In the first of four concerts that take place from July 4th to the 7th , he’ll open with his regular quartet and music from his most recent album, The Well. The following night he’ll perform solo, then in a trio, and on the final day he will partner with the sweet and soulful Solweig Slettahjell, whose mood indigo is guaranteed to put a spell on you – and more. If her unpronounceable name draws a blank and you’re wondering what to expect, think of a Nora Jones-Sophie Hunger fusion with an irrepressible alt-side.

However complex and diverse is the world’s music, there is no getting around the fact that our preferences are very much determined by disposition and circumstance. When the real world feels like it is too much with us, we often turn to music for sanctuary and solace. If there is such a thing as distinctly Norwegian jazz, it may be nothing more than the antithesis of everything Norwegian, or what Norwegians want to be temporarily relieved of: endless winter nights, a climate that on its good days only flirts with summer, and the dulling effects of institutional certainties (the twin tyrannies of propriety and orderliness).

Sometimes jazz is so thick and furious and abstract it’s like a wall you can’t break through. The listener finds himself on the outside desperate to get in, while the conflicted musician, desirous of an audience, can’t stop himself from wielding his instrument like an automatic weapon.

The group “took each song apart, dismantling the melody, painstakingly, painfully, sappers dismantling a lie, and then each single component around so many times it disintegrated. They put it together again from nothing, notes and fragments of notes, bent notes and breaths, squawks on the horns and the reeds’ empty-lidded beating of keys. By the time the melody reappeared, one was sick with longing for it.”(from The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels).

Contemporary Norwegian jazz rejects that kind of enraged, tight-fisted jazz that promises a bruising to even the most battle hardened membrana tympani. In its highly malleable structures, tempo and expansive chains of melody are irresistible gaps and caesurae that more and more listeners are turning toward as the real world turns a cold shoulder.

In especially his solo work, Tord Gustavsen compositions are distinguished by their dreamy, airy intervals and sublime breaches that invite listeners to enter and discover his very cozy and gratifying alt-spaces. With a nod to the Debussy, Gustavsen’s mission statement might read, “music is the space between the notes.” Whether solo or in combo, his music is floatational, where pitch and vibe conspire to produce breathless etherscapes and mind states where matter and anti-matter dissolve into each other. The compositional simplicity belies the subtle intent which is to transport the listener to somewhere over the bow and into blue. His music can be haunting, soothing and very otherworldly. As soundscapes we have come to associate with the Gustavsen name, and by extension Norwegian music, we note the evolution of a distinct sound around which festivals are programmed for increasingly international audiences. When Gustavsen is in his compositional element, finding and healing himself through writing, his music seems to unfold laws whose discreet purpose is to calm the agitated mind and restive heart. That he has found new ways for silence and notes to accommodate each other is his most singular accomplishment to date.

To the charge that Gustavsen’s music is too predictable or derivative, combining what is best in early Jarrett and Gaberek with New Age, the devil is in the detail which in his case is comprised of those ever so subtle but arresting compositional twists and turns whose cumulative effects make you realize that his invention is never at the expense of the mood and atmospherics we associate with his generic sound. We return to his work because he has created an expectation his music is best qualified to satisfy, which of course is the aim of every composer but achievement of only the few.

Since Montrealers are often the first to recognize and appreciate music born in Europe, we should not be surprised to learn that Tord Gustavsen’s appearance at this years Montreal Jazz Festival will be his third.



John Coltrane
Miles Davis
Thelonius Monk
Charlie Mingus
Oscar Peterson
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
Wes Montgomery
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