Ketil Bjornstad – “La Notte”


Ketil Bjornstad - "La Notte"Pianist Ketil Bjornstad is a musician with a knack for synthesizing down serene ambiance into a sonic medium, resulting in quiet music for quiet mornings.  On La Notte, his newest, he gets a bit more expansive.  With the films of Michelangelo Antonioni as inspiration, Bjornstad creates an album of sprawling epics and miniature expressions of solitude.

That said, Eivind Aarset isn’t going to let the peacefulness stay that way long.  Just as his electronics can push music to a heavily atmospheric bliss, his guitar will shriek and growl and take the music to the other extreme.  Bjornstad must have anticipated this, which is why he enlisted Andy Sheppard for this session, a saxophonist who, historically, has taken on the responsibility of raising the temperature on other ECM Records releases, and who clearly has no difficulty matching Aarset’s fire with some heat of his own.

The cello of Anja Lechner comes in handy for keeping a lid on things, and bringing the album back to its peaceful roots.  Lechner and Bjornstad combine for sections of evocative expressionism, of moments so pretty they almost hurt a little, and of moments so rich in melancholia that they can’t help but elicit a smile.

Those sections wouldn’t be nearly as effective without the wise decisions of percussionist Marilyn Mazur, whose track record on ECM proves a diversity in approach that always comes off as slightly unconventional, adding dynamic qualities to music that often keeps to a whisper.  Bassist Arild Andersen, another ECM vet, is right at home in this type of music.  His own album Hyperborean walks a similar path to that of La Notte, flirting with epic statements that don’t risk waking anyone from their happy dreams.

It still has all the serenity one could require from Bjornstad… he just lets the simmer reach a boil from time to time.

Your album personnel: Ketil Bjørnstad (piano), Andy Sheppard (tenor & soprano saxes), Eivind Aarset (guitars, electronics), Anja Lechner (violoncello), Marilyn Mazur (percussion), and Arild Andersen (double bass).

This album was recorded live at the 2010 Molde International Jazz Festival.  From the sound of it, you’d never know.

Released on the ECM Records label.

Stream an album track on the ECM site.

Jazz from Norway.

Available at: eMusic MP3 | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3



Want more Bjornstad?  Follow this LINK to an article I wrote for this site that covers two more Bjornstad albums… one that has him in a duo setting with cellist Dave Darling and another in a trio setting with Tore Brunborg and Jon Christensen.