Tord Gustavsen: I fell asleep, but he was great

Last night I got to see Tord Gustavsen do a free show as part of the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage program. As he is apparently a pretty well-known dude, he didn’t play at the regular venue, but rather in a large concert hall upstairs (the Kennedy Center is freakin’ enormous and has something like four or five full-size performance halls, plus two “Millennium Stages” and a huge patio on which they often set up stages for outdoor concerts) — complete with ushers. More ushers, in fact, than audience members for many shows I’ve been to. The place was pretty full, although one of the quirks of a free show is that people just kind of come and go as they please. I was amazed at how many people would just up and leave in the middle of a damn song, even if they had to make everyone else in their row get up to let them out.

I hadn’t heard any of Gustavsen’s music before, but based on the strength of reviews for his latest release on ECM, The Ground (see, for instance, AllAboutJazz or PopMatters), this one was a no-brainer. The concert was more or less what I expected: very melodic, beautiful, low-key stuff, with a noticeable Keith Jarrett feel at times, but Gustavsen definitely has his own style and some of his extended solos were real highlights. Overall, though, it was a little too sleepy for me: I prefer my jazz to be a little edgier, a little more dissonant. Still, well worth the time (an hour) and money (zero dollars) I spent.

You can already watch this concert through free streaming video — link at the bottom of this page. Don’t be scared off by the major distortion in the sound at the beginning, as the sound engineers quickly corrected the problem. Still not a great recording, but what do you expect from streaming video…

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