Grace

COMPOSERS: Bjørnstad
LABELS: Emarcy
PERFORMER: Ketil Bjørnstad (p), Bendik Hofseth (ts, vc), Eivind Aarset (g), Jan Bang (sampling), Arlid Andersen (b), Trilok Gurtu (perc), Anneli Drecker (vc)
CATALOGUE NO: 013 622-2

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Bjørnstad is a remarkable figure in the arts in his native Norway. After studying the piano in Norway, Paris and London, he made his debut performing Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto, and went on to perform the classical repertoire before becoming entranced by Miles Davis’s ‘In a Silent Way’ and increasingly made inroads into jazz.

He has also written some 20 novels, collections of poetry and essays and is a critic of literature and music. The 30 albums to his name include five solo recitals and several musical-literary concept albums, of which Grace must be considered a descendent. His remarkable keyboard technique was rigorously pruned as a result of his work on ECM, most notably with Water Stories,

The Sea and The Sea II, with the ‘almost shocking’ realisation he could achieve far more with fewer notes. Here, he sets music to the lyrics of the English metaphysical poet John Donne (1572-1631). The music is astonishing in its transparency, each note crafted in search of meaning. Nothing is gratuitous or for effect; instrumentalists congregate around the finely honed melodies and depart after deep meditations upon what has gone before.

Anneli Drecker hits the right note of emotional neutrality in conveying Donne’s writing without becoming entangled in its meaning as does Hofseth, whose first appearance beyond Norway’s borders was as saxophonist in Mike Maineri’s Steps Ahead.

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A remarkable album whose richness is not exhausted after repeated listening. Stuart Nicholson