Ketil Bjørnstad: Remembrance (ECM 2149)



Ketil Bjørnstad

Ketil Bjørnstad piano
Tore Brunborg tenor saxophone
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded September 2009 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Ketil Bjørnstad’s Remembrance came together at the suggestion of producer Manfred Eicher, who convened the Norwegian pianist-composer in the studio with legendary drummer Jon Christensen and master saxophonist Tore Brunborg for a set of 11 naturally unfolding ballads. Although Bjørnstad and Christensen had famously worked together on The Sea, and despite the music’s arpeggiated undercurrents, the feeling is not so much of water as of sky, with a touch of horizon for reference. Certain portions (Part V, for example) may approach the coast, but their vessels ultimately skim cloud and vapor, not ocean.

Interactions between the three musicians are globular and free-forming, but root themselves in Bjørnstad and Christensen (it was a recording of them, in fact, that inspired Eicher’s vision of this project to begin with). And so, by the time we encounter their gorgeous duetting in Part VI, we know that we have reached the true heart of the album—not only for being the numerical middle but also for distilling a vision of textural clarity. Here, as throughout, Bjørnstad’s soft backpedaling gives full attention to the drummer’s sunglow. Christensen drums with characteristic impressionism, but also with a sense of voice that few others bring to the kit. Parts VII and IX explore further possibilities in the duo, each attuned to the adaptive forces of the other’s creative play.

Despite the musicians’ ability to paint with luminescent urgencies, the trio settings are most unified at a whisper. Brunborg’s reed stretches a tether between emotional territories in the remaining tracks, each more lyrical, more soulful, than the last, until their nostalgic petals break bud in the aerials of Part XI. The songs with Brunborg are also the album’s tenderest. It’s as if the addition of a distinctly air-born voice elicits a ripple effect of empathy from the two percussion instruments, a regression into childhood sensibilities. And yet, beautiful as the melodies are, Remembrance is a must-have for fans of Christensen. If you’ve ever laid stick to cymbal, you’ll know why.

(To hear samples of Remembrance, click here.)

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