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Published: 2014/03/18
by Ron Hart

Tord Gustavsen Quartet
Extended Circle

ECM

Tord Gustavsen, the Oscar Peterson of Norwegian jazz, must be a Star Wars fan.

How else could one explain—in layman’s terms, at least—the inspiration for the “double circle” of trilogies he’s been working on for ECM?

Nevertheless, rest assured if the first half of this sonic saga—-cumulated in three excellent albums with his trio (2003’s Changing Planes, 2005’s The Ground and 2007’s Being There) represents the New Hope/Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi triad of his oeuvre, the second half with his quartet—now fully formed with the release of the appropriately titled Extended Circle —is as if The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were equally as good as their cinematic predecessors.

And as the final chapter of these twin moons of modal bop, Extended Circle exhibits an intuitive comfort level between the quartet and producer Manfred Eicher that’s warmer than any other album they’ve done together in the past. The gospel- and blues-tinted conversation that takes place between Gustavsen’s piano, saxophonist Tore Brunborg, Mats Eilertsen on double-bass and drummer Jarle Vespestad is so calming and melodic on such lovely compositions as “Right There”, “Entrance”, “Silent Spaces” and “Embrace”, it’s hard to believe this music comes from the same country as the black metal movement.

Meditative like the rain hitting the windows of a historic high rise in the city of your dreams, Extended Circle is night jazz at its finest.

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