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John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Tord Gustavsen

Given that Tord Gustavsen’s recording debut on ECM, Changing Places, is a mostly quiet, understated work by an unknown Norwegian pianist, it is interesting that it has gotten so much attention. It was positively reviewed in many of the major magazines, made some significant 2003 Top Ten lists, got considerable air play, and even received Stereophile’s highest accolade as a “Record To Die For”-a distinction rarely granted to a new recording.

Gustavsen has broken through the noise because he is a lyric poet of the piano, a melodist with a gift for marking out lines of simple purity that communicate complex emotion. A question that naturally arises is whether the particular magic of Changing Places was a function of ECM’s Rainbow Studio in Oslo, Norway, and the supervision of producer Manfred Eicher, or whether it could be recreated live in a jazz club. (Eicher, after all, has brought so many recordings into the world that share a certain rapt inner glow.)

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