[Dixielandjazz] Soft (as opposed to loud)

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Nov 26 10:23:57 PST 2003

Not OKOM but related to the recent VOLUME thread. This must be what
happens when you go mto the other extreme. TOO SOFT.


November 26, 2003 - NY Times


A Nightclub Made Churchlike by Softness of Sound and Touch


You have to admire the Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen for a pleasingly
disjunctive, conceptually airtight presentation. Young, fresh-faced and
pinstripe-suited, he gets to the piano bench with his similarly
sharp-looking bassist and drummer, and proceeds to play incredibly
somber music.

It was Sunday night at Joe's Pub, which has the kind of sleek-lined
atmosphere that makes you feel disembodied and stimulated at the same
time; Mr. Gustavsen, speaking between songs in soft-voiced English,
described it as a "churchlike setting." But a nightclub can be like a
church only if you live
permanently inside minor keys and crawling tempos.

In his original music with songlike melodies — pieces like "Deep as
Love," "Tears Transforming," "Colors of Mercy," and "Where Breathing
Starts," some from his first album, "Changing Places," released this
year on ECM — you hear a mixture of the Carpenters' sad pop ballads, the
rubato feeling of Flamenco, gospel chords and jazz chromaticism.

There are many tiny flashes of romantic heat, but the solemn
self-restraint is total, absolute, even a little bit suffocating.

There's so much emphasis on this music's design — its chic, muted
surfaces — that its actual content almost seems secondary. Yet I found
myself interested in Mr. Gustavsen's sound and touch, his soft
antipercussive chords with lots of sustain pedal. And I found much
originality in Jarle Vespestad's drumming.

It was so quiet that at times, with brushes in hands and hands on snare
drum, he only tapped the brushes with an index finger rather than
lifting his hand up to strike a beat.

At other points he put brushes away entirely and played drums with
fingertips alone. All his gestures were radical reductions of the usual
drum sounds: instead of hitting the cymbal with a stick, he'd scratch
across the top of it; instead of adding fills between beats, he'd leave
open space, suggesting grooves with absences.

But how long can Mr. Gustavsen keep it up? Will the facade crack? Will
he be forced to play something faster, more physical? Will a kind of
messy reality invade the perfect glass vitrines of his music?

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