Ketilbjornstad_span3
October 2010

Ketil Bjørnstad
Remembrance
ECM Records

This bass-less Norwegian trio contains the leader, Ketil Bjørnstad, as pianist-composer-auteur, Tore Brunborg on tenor saxophone and Jon Christensen on drums. The degree to which the 11 pieces here (numbered, not titled) are notated as opposed to improvised is less important than the fact that they all sound like songs. All but one is under five minutes. They are specific crystalline forms, poignant or joyful or both (as remembrances tend to be). Bjørnstad was a classical pianist who played Bartók with the Oslo Philharmonic before he became a jazz musician. His exploratory music feels disciplined.

Bjørnstad’s touch on piano, his minimalist melodies and muted luminous chords, frame the setting in which remembrances are reached and touched. Jon Christensen is one of the subtlest—and often quietest—of drummers. His implicit energy transforms the shapes and colors of this ensemble. The voice most responsible for the album’s emotional resonance is Brunborg’s. He is unmistakably of the Nordic jazz school, and his tenor sound, like a cold clean wind, is reminiscent of Jan Garbarek’s. But Brunborg is more understated, while no less fervent and authentic.

Remembrance is a personal and unique collective statement. It is also representative of one of the richest creative veins in the vast ECM catalog. It is music that encompasses and reconciles opposites: order and freedom; ambiguity and clarity; austerity and passion—all contained within the sensuous sonorities of ECM’s best, most lucid recorded sound.

Originally published in October 2010
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