Ketil Bjørnstad’s themes and his chains of chords provide the atmosphere and harmonic climate in which remembrances can be evoked. Wistful, inner-directed solos are interspersed with buoyant and outgoing improvisations. In both modes, melodic clarity prevails. Yet in this round of memories, too, there are surprising shifts of expressive emphasis, more than a few of them triggered by the drummer...
This trio project came into existence after Manfred Eicher heard a tape of Bjørnstad and Jon Christensen playing together. A suggestion to add saxophonist Tore Brunborg brought the three Norwegian musicians and producer to Oslo’s Rainbow Studio where the album was very swiftly made – recorded in a single day, and mixed the next, which is fast even by ECM’s famously disciplined standards. As so often, though, this spontaneously realized music making draws on decades of collaborative experiences.
Ketil Bjørnstad (born 1952) and Jon Christensen (born 1943) have been musical associates for almost 40 years. Christensen played on Bjørnstad’s very first recordings in the early 1970s and when Ketil finally came to ECM for “Water Stories” in 1993 (having been, as he says, influenced by the label’s productions from the beginning), the ever-unpredictable drummer was once again on board, staying on to become a charter member of the pianist’s popular Sea Quartet (with Terje Rypdal and David Darling) through the 1990s. Christensen’s fluid approach to drumming in this new trio has qualities in common with his drum and cymbal playing in that similarly bass-less ensemble. His waves of sound undulate freely through the music.
Christensen has plenty of history also with Tore Brunborg (born 1960). Brunborg’s introduction to a wider international audience came initially through his work and recordings with the band Masqualero, formed by Arild Andersen with Jon Christensen. Brunborg was with Masqualero for 10 years and appeared on four albums with the band, including three for ECM, “Bande à part”, “Aero” and “Re-Enter”. They also played together in the little big band Oslo 13 under Jon Balke’s direction (“Nonsentration”) and Misha Alperin (“North Story”).
Brunborg, currently playing at a peak, has been prominently featured on two other ECM recordings this season, Tord Gustavsen’s “Restored Returned” and Manu Katché’s “Third Round” and he is touring with both Gustavsen’s and Katché’s bands. His ballad playing on “Remembrance” is full of feeling.
Ketil Bjørnstad described as “a cultural prodigy” by The Guardian’s John Fordham, started out as a classical pianist, making his debut with the Oslo Philharmonic, playing Bartók. Encounters with jazz of the late 1960s, especially Miles and Coltrane, changed his priorities and he was fascinated also by the new Norwegian improvising scene ECM was documenting. Soon he switched streams and began playing with the jazz men. Simultaneously he has maintained a career as a respected writer with many books to his credit – novels, poems, essays and more.
His ECM recordings have been incorporated in the soundtracks of numerous films, including several by Jean-Luc Godard: “Notre Musique”, “The Old Place”, “Histoire(s) du Cinéma”, “Forever Mozart” and “Eloge de L’amour”.
2010 is a set to be a big year for Bjørnstad. Another disc is already recorded (duo with cellist Svante Henrykson) and scheduled for fall 2010 release.
Jon Christensen helped to define music on ECM in the early years, as a member of the groups of Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Keith Jarrett, Eberhard Weber, Terje Rypdal, Ralph Towner and Miroslav Vitous and as a contributor to dozens of sessions. His personal selection from this prolific activity is documented on his “Selected Recordings” album in ECM’s rarum anthology series. One of the most influential drummers in modern jazz history, he continues to feature on ECM discs, latterly with the groups of guitarist Jacob Young and pianist/harpist Iro Haarla.