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Tord Gustavsen Quartet: Extended Circle

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Norwegian pianist-composer Tord Gustavsen creates music like nothing else in jazz today, and his new quartet recording, Extended Circle, is a vivid illustration of the singularity of his take on the form. Throughout the album’s 12 tracks, eight of which are original compositions by the pianist, the pace is customarily languid; solos and anything as crowd-pleasing as swing are virtually nonexistent. The result, while sometimes difficult to classify as jazz, is undeniably compelling.

Gustavsen’s playing is an intriguing blend of fire and ice, masterfully orchestrating melodic and harmonic silences for maximum impact. His compositions draw interesting inspiration from various forms of sacred music. “The Gift” and “The Embrace” feature melodic concepts redolent of American gospel, and on two linked pieces credited to the quartet, “Entrance” and “Entrance, var.,” Tore Brunborg’s tenor saxophone takes an ancient incantatory tone while bassist Mats Eilertsen’s eerie rumblings seem designed to awaken deities of a far different sort.

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