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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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What Was Said

ECM 475 8697



  1. Your Grief

  2. I See You

  3. Imagine The Fog Disappearing

  4. A Castle In Heaven

  5. Journey Of Life

  6. I Refuse

  7. What Was Said To The Rose/O Sacred Head

  8. The Way You Play My Heart

  9. Rull

  10. The Source Of Now

  11. Sweet Melting

  12. Longing To Praise Thee

  13. Sweet Melting Afterglow

Tord Gustavsen - Piano, electronics, synth bass

Simin Tander - Voice

Jarle Vespestad - Drums

Since his debut for ECM in 2003, the Norwegian pianist, arranger and composer Tord Gustavsen has produced a string of tuneful and reflective albums which have received widespread popular acclaim. Gustavsen has a penchant for gentle grooves and gospel-inflected melodies, the latter probably influenced by the church music which was part of his youth. In fact, he has referred to Norwegian hymns as his idea of standards. Here he is joined by drummer Jarle Vespestad who has been with Gustavsen throughout his ECM career and who is also known as part of the Farmers Market group. The other member of this latest manifestation of Gustavsen's trio (they were formed in 2014) is the Afghan/German singer Simin Tander. Tander was born in Cologne and is a lecturer in jazz singing as well as having fronted her own quartet. This album is sure to add to her growing reputation.

The material to be found here is fascinating containing, as it does, half a dozen translations from Norwegian lyrics into Pashto, the native language of Tander's Afghan journalist father who died when she was quite young. The music for these is primarily that of Norwegian traditional religious hymns and songs. Add to the mix, three musical settings of poems by the Sufi mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi and a further setting of some words by the American counter-cultural poet, Kenneth Rexroth and you'll appreciate how different this all is. Two other tracks are purely instrumental. Amidst an embarrassment of riches, I would single out three particularly fine pieces. Interestingly, two of them are typical of Gustavsen's usual oeuvre. The Way You Play My Heart features sublime gospel-influenced piano, accompanied only by Vespestad on drums. Rull reminds me of the Scandinavian folk tradition. After a drum intro, Gustavsen takes off in rhapsodic style. But there is much to be said, also, for I Refuse,

Kenneth Roxreth's poem serving as an intriguing lyric. This is sung beautifully by Simi Tander with a surging piano from Gustavsen and Vespestad prominent too. What Was Said To The Rose segues into a powerful rendition of the hymn O Sacred Head (the music was written by Hans Leo Hassler but was used by Bach in his St. Matthew Passion). The Source Of Now, another Rumi text, finds Tander almost whispering the words. She is not, however, in any way limited in range - try A Castle In Heaven if you need confirmation of that.

This is an album to savour if you are among those who find Tord Gustavsen's characteristically low-key, even minimalist, approach one of life's pleasures. It has the added bonus of the subtle playing of Jarle Vespestad and the real discovery for many of the exquisite voice of Simin Tander. Whether singing in English or Pashto, this is someone who commands our attention.

James Poore

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