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State of Wonder

Sacred Strength, Negative Spaces: The Music Of Tord Gustavsen


Tord Gustavsen and his quartet took the stage this week at the Portland Jazz Festival. Gustavsen’s prayerful, understated compositions can bring an audience to a breathless tension that louder, more forceful groups may never achieve.

Gustavsen says he doesn't consider his distinctive musical style a completed achievement, but an ongoing process. He says he works to bring emotional intensity and perspective to every aspect of his life.

Gustavsen says he doesn't consider his distinctive musical style a completed achievement, but an ongoing process. He says he works to bring emotional intensity and perspective to every aspect of his life.

Ifanyi Bell / Oregon Public Broadcasting

You got a sense of the high value Gustavsen puts on restraint, when he explained the title of a recent composition, “Right There” to Sean Brennan, the host of KMHD‘s Compass Points. Gustavsen said:

“It’s trying to zoom in on that quality of the essential notes … Wait until dynamics and extrovertedness and virtuosity is really called for by the spirit of the music. It’s actually paying tribute to that quality of searching for the essential.”

Tord Gustavsen’s music draws on jazz standards, but also on the hymns of his childhood, Norwegian folk dance rhythms, and the musical traditions of New Orleans, where the sacred and the profane are never far apart.

Gustavsen stopped by for a special studio session at KMHD this week. He talked about latest release, called Extended Circle, and what’s been happening since his last visit to Portland in 2008.

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