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I suspect he'd regard such a venture as a form of hogging the limelight, though. The trio is what it's all about and, of course, each player was given space to be heard separately; not in a cliché solo, routinely thrown in after so many bars, but as something genuinely arising from the progression of musical ideas. Harald Johnsen's work on bass epitomised this kind of intelligent exploration. There was nothing glib, either in his playing or the sound of his instrument. Barely amplified, it made all the clicks and thunks a proper double bass occasionally does as he crafted solos utilising the full range of the instrument. In fact, he sounds less like any of the current generation of bass players, and more -- well, more like Mingus, however extravagant that may sound by way of praise.

The performance of each piece was so seamless that, apart from a single drum solo, the only applause came at the end. The audience was quieter, and concentrated harder than any 'classical' audience I've encountered too: no hacking coughs; no rustling programmes; no kicking the pews in a bored moment. But the applause, when it came, was rapturous; and the encore, a piece of delicate understatement, had almost to be forced out of the musicians. As they bowed, Tord Gustavsen smiled appreciatively. I think he was pleased.

So he should be. He and his colleagues had just made some new friends and admirers, and there'll be many more. Catch them if you can on this short tour, whether or not you think you like jazz. This music is for anyone with open ears.

Copyright © 4 May 2004 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


Rex Harley was at The Tord Gustavsen Trio's first ever UK performance on Thursday 29 April 2004 at St George's, Bristol. The tour continues to Brighton (4 May), Nottingham (5 May), York (6 May), Norwich (7 May), London (8 May), Oxford (9 May), Southampton (11 May) and Glasgow (13 May 2004).


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