Recorded September 2009
Rainbow Studio, Oslo at Rainbow Studio
Pianist Ketil Bjornstad's music is typically in the Scandinavian division of ECM tradition - cool, seamless, flowing, emotionally consistent. This series of eleven selections titled by Roman numerals progresses through a life cycle that reaches a nebulous pinnacle. With no bass player, tenor saxophonist Tore Brunborg and the always inventive drummer Jon Christensen - all veterans of Euro-classical-textured jazz - weave through various aspects of contemporary jazz while mindful of natural and spiritual elements. In Bjornstad's playing, you circular notions of former ECM stablemate, pianist Mike Nock, peace-based hymnal and traditional themes, a waltz, a short stack of mystery, and just a smattering of the blues. At times, Brunborg's tenor reflects the rich fluidity of Michael Brecker as on "IV," while Christensen's usually ultra-sensitive drumming breaks out into free clattering and bomb drops for "IX," and concentrates on lovely oceanic cymbal washes during "X". Remembrance certainly is a reflective, introspective recording, well suited for those times when pause for concern and a look at one's inner self is necessary.
All Music Guide
Ketil Bjornstad'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 Bjornstad 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 Bjornstad (born 1952) and Jon Christensen (born 1943) have been musical associates for almost 40 years. Christensen played on Bjornstad'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 a 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 Katche's "Third Round" and he is touring with both Gustavsen's and Katche's bands. His ballad playing on "Remembrance" is full of feeling.
Ketil Bjornstad 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 Bartok. 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 Cinema", "Forever Mozart" and "Eloge de L'amour".
2010 is a set to be a big year for Bjornstad. 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.