Sunday, January 22, 2023

Earshot Jazz presents Tord Gustavsen Trio at Town Hall: Feb 18 | "Manfred Eicher: The 'ECM Sound' Man" | The Guardian


The contemporary Scandinavian jazz scene that epitomizes what has become known as the "ECM Sound" is embodied by such players and ensembles as the Mats Eilertsen Trio, Nils Petter Molvær, Tord Gustavsen Trio, Thomas Strønen, and the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble. Next month, Earshot Jazz continues their decades-long tradition of importing these sounds to the west coast with next month's concert at Town Hall, featuring the Tord Gustavsen Trio performing from their most recent set of recordings, "Opening". In Jazz Times' overview, "Tord Gustavsen: Quiet is the New Loud", the magazine maps the journey of his music as it draws listeners into an encompassing atmosphere of rapt contemplation, but this deceptively soothing aspect reveals a more nuanced depth, in the trio's emotional exposure. A sound expressed through the finesse and dynamics of Gustavsen's piano playing, alongside longtime percussionist Jarle Vespestad, and new bassist for this contemporary lineup, Steinar Raknes. By way of introduction to foundational developments of this scene, there is probably no better document than Johannes Rød's, "Free Jazz and Improvisation on Vinyl 1965-1985", published by Norwegian vanguard imprint Rune Grammofon. Tracing independent free jazz and improv labels between 1965 and 1985, from the beginning of ESP-Disk through to the current era of vinyl revival and ascendant digital formats. With some 60 labels covered in the volume, and forewords by Mats Gustafsson and label founder, Rune Kristoffersen, the edition perfectly encapsulates this particular brand of what The Guardian's Richard Williams calls, "Norwegian Blues". 

 
The significance of the ECM label to the extended Scandinavian scene and its embracing of classical, jazz, improvisation, and chamber music experimentation, can't be overstated. Co-founded by producer Manfred Eicher, Manfred Scheffner and Karl Egger in Munich in 1969, the label's prestige has been meticulously constructed over five decades of artfully presented releases bearing their distinctly refined aesthetic. Dana Jennings "ECM: Albums Know that Ears Have Eyes" for the New York Times mines ECM's ensuing four decades following those detailed in Rød's chronicle, focusing specifically on the imprint's meeting of sound, material, and image. ECM's convergence of sound, and visual aesthetics was also the focus of the Okwui Enwezor and Markus Müller curated "ECM - A Cultural Archaeology", for the Munich Haus der Kunst in 2013. The objective of the exhibition's presentation of the history of the label, as Okwui Enwezor states in his essay “Big Ears", was that it should be made comprehensible through more than just documents, archival material and artifacts. The major concern was to instead present the work of Eicher and ECM’s relationship to different artistic disciplines. These ranged from the films of Jean-Luc Godard, Theodor Kotullas, Theo AngelopoulosAndrei Tarkovsky, and Peter Greenaway, to the concerts of Keith Jarrett and The Art Ensemble of Chicago; from the performances by Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, and Arvo Pärt, to the graphic design of Barbara Wojirsch and photographs by Dieter Rehm, Roberto Masotti, and Deborah Feingold. Photo credit: Maarten Mooijman