CD Review: Ketil Bjørnstad - La notte



Ketil Bjørnstad - La notte
(ECM 372 4553. CD Review by Chris Parker)


Commissioned by, and performed at, the Molde International Jazz Festival, La notte is composer/pianist Ketil Bjørnstad’s eight-part tribute to the work of a man he considers one of his formative influences: film-maker Michelangelo Antonioni.

The ‘slow, rhythmic authority’ of Antonioni’s cinema was apparently the inspiration for what Bjørnstad refers to as ‘the soundtrack to an inner film’, and there is an overall shape to his music that does indeed mirror the dramatic logic of cinematic narrative: gentle thematic exposition, exploration of issues raised, final resolution and reflection.

Bjørnstad has published poetry, as well as fiction and non-fiction, and in La notte he has combined a writer’s awareness of the importance of structure with a musician’s sense of the subtly emotive power of melody and the almost subliminal effect of underlying rhythm.

To realise his conception, he has assembled something of a dream sextet: alongside his deceptively simple piano, bassist Arild Andersen brings over 40 years’ ECM experience to the band, and with another label stalwart, Marilyn Mazur, providing the most delicately imaginative but propulsive percussion and cellist Anja Lechner bringing sonorous elegance to the ensemble sound and a plaintive clarity to her solo contributions, Bjørnstad has created a richly accommodating setting for his two main soloists, guitarist/electronics operator Eivind Aarset and tenor/soprano saxophonist Andy Sheppard.

Both provide powerful, personal but carefully tailored solos where required, Aarset’s multi-textured guitar soaring, Sheppard’s saxophones bustling, blustering and roaring over the music’s more turbulent moments, but they and their fellow musicians are also sensitive enough, when negotiating Bjørnstad’s more restrained, graceful moments, to ensure that the truth of his statement ‘visual art creates music in our minds, and music creates pictures and visual expressions with the same intensity’ is borne out throughout this consistently affecting, sometimes downright mesmerising, live performance.

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