Tord Gustavsen Quartet live in London

I don’t like saxophones but have to admit that Tore Brunborg brings considerable range to Tord Gustavsen’s Trio. He has been in the band for some time now but this is the first time I’ve caught them, and have to say that it was better than expected. Better than the new album sounds at home as well, the unwritten laws of the recording industry won’t allow the sort of dynamic range that this band delivers live to be released on a commercial recording.  Gustavsen has a penchant for quiet but by adding Brunborg’s sax he can now do loud as well, not loud for its own sake, there is no bombast, but a wider dynamic palette. This was the Sunday evening concert (9/3/14) at the shiny new Milton Court just down Silk Street from the Barbican, a surprisingly retro looking venue with acres of cedar veneer and a very tall, narrow, shoe box shape. Possibly a golden ratio room. The engineer had the a confidence to keep the levels low and the performance started out typically quiet with Gustavsen gently tapping his keyboard, the level gradually climbed but never stretched the PA. The bass was a bit odd however, the kick drum in particular sounded extremely thick. Either the room was doing this or it had been EQ’d that way. It almost sounded a bit like a passing tube train, incongruous.

The band was more than interesting enough to make the balance a minor issue, they played three tranches of grouped pieces, so the audience got only three opportunities to applause before the two encores. The whole event lasted two hours, it felt like less. Tore Brunborg came into his own on a number of pieces but on the most intense and powerful one he took things to a higher pitch than a piano trio can do alone. I wish I could tell you which track it is and will scour the new album to see if it’s there, but if it is, it doesn’t sound like the live experience. That blew me away, which is not something you expect from the king of scandiwegian cool.