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Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen's quartet sounded discreetly funkier than formerly on their 2012 album, The Well, and another veil of that discretion is peeled off with Extended Circles – a delicious collage of hypnotic grooving, softly stroked gospel themes, and perhaps more gloves-off jazz piano from the leader than on all five of his previous ECM albums. The short opener, ‘Right There’, is a classic Gustavsen piano theme of gently soulful enquiries. Then saxophonist Tore Brunborg fuels an intense account of the traditional Norwegian hymn ‘Eg Veit I Himmerik Ei Borg’, built on Jarle Vespestad's snare-drum patterns and swelling to a warbling incantation. ‘The Gift’ is an episode of eerily slow jazz balladeering, ‘Staying There’ a gripping passage of snorty tenor-sax over a seamless Jarrett-like thunder, but there's also plenty of evidence – such as the static yet vibrant ‘Glow’ – that Gustavsen's persuasive fragility is still intact.
John Fordham, The Guardian
Trés structuré, organisé come peut l’être office liturgique, ‘Extended Circle’ renferme des pièces lentes, contemplatives, rarement troublées par des tempos rapides. Tempérés par le lyrisme du saxophone, par le chant d’un piano imbibé de blues dont le groove est souvent plus suggéré que marqué, les rythmes à peine plus vifs de ‘The Embrace’ et de ‘Staying There’ portent l’ émotion à bonne température. Le groupe n’hésite pas non plus à dynamiser rythmiquement ‘Eg Veit I Himmerik Ei borg’ (‘Je sais que dans le ciel se trouve un château’), vieil hymne norvégien que le pianiste connaît depuis l’enfance. Tranquilles et intimistes, les autres morceaux invitent aussi à la prière, à la méditation.
Pierre de Chocqueuse, Jazz Magazine

The evolution of Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen and his relationship with ECM Records has always been more about expansion rather than linear forward motion. [...] It's no surprise, then, that the third album to feature the pianist's recent quartet is called ‘Extended Circle’, as it possesses numerous meanings, all with their own significance, amongst them the growing community of players with whom he has interacted over the past decade, as well as the culmination of Gustavsen's two ECM tryptichs, beginning with the trio recordings ‘Changing Places’, ‘The Ground’ (2005) and ‘Being There’ (2007), and continuing with the quartet sessions ‘Restored, Returned’ (2009), ‘The Well’, and now,’Extended Circle’. But most importantly ‘Extended Circle’ refers to the manner in which the introspective and thoughtful Gustavsen has patiently evolved his music, largely mining a narrow range of tempos but demonstrating just how much can be found in such a seemingly restrictive context. [... ] And while Gustavsen has always been about slow tempos, the quartet's interpretation of the traditional Norwegian hymn, ‘Eg Veit I Himmerik El Borg’ (A Castle in Heaven) demonstrates that simmering heat is not beyond its reach. Vespestad's gentle but frenetic drumming and Eilertsen's soft but insistent support provide a foundation over which Gustavsen's meditative ruminations float initially, but gradually pick up steam over the course of five minutes, as Brunborg's tenor building from a whisper to a scream before returning to the hymn's singable theme. All of which makes Extended Circle's suite-like 50-minute program Gustavsen's most diverse and satisfying to date.
John Kelman, All About Jazz

The flowing rhythms, tranquil melodies and sparse arrangements of pianist Tord Gustavsen’s sixth release make up a quintessential, peculiarly ECM recording. [...] Perhaps it’s reductionist to refer to an ECM ‘sound’, but there’s no denying the influence of label owner and producer Manfred Eicher , who is said to have a large sonic hand in every release. But whether Gustavsen and his quartet are paying homage or simply reflecting influence, ‘Extended Circle’ is a stunningly beautiful recording. [...] In the album notes, Gustavsen writes: ‘the modernistic notion of linear progress is dead. But still we (come) back to musical and spirtual issues from ever-new angles.’ That ‘Extended Circle’ draws the listener in so completely – making us consider each note, each small gesture in its ethereal, shimmering whole – is nothing less than magical.
Ken Micallef, Downbeat

Mittlerweile hat das Quartett zu einer Qualität des Zusammenspiels gefunden, die ihresgleichen sucht. Jeder ahnt voraus, in welche Richtung der andere sich bewegen möchte, und agiert dementsprechend. Dabei ist die Musik sehr konzentriert: Wo manch andere Musiker Kaskaden von Tönen produzieren, um etwas auszudrücken, benötigen Gustavsen und seine Partner manchmal nur ein oder zwei Klänge, die einen eigenen Mikrokosmos generieren.
Mario-Felix Vogt, Stereo

The Tord Gustavsen Quartet is the same ensemble that first recorded ‘Restored Returned’ (2009) and then ‘The Well’ (2012), but not the same, as their Extended Circle encompasses a wider range of mood and sorcery. It's still a relatively slow dance, but there's more energy in motion and emotion. The music is no less exquisite than previous albums, yet the meditations are now more interactive, both within the quartet and between musicians and listeners – like the difference between praying alone and calling up spirits within a community.
Andrea Canter, Jazz Police

Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen returns with a new finely balanced album as part of his now well established quartet including tenor saxophone [...] Already garnering a good deal of airplay is the radio friendly piece ‘Eg Veit I Himmerik Ei Borg’ (‘A castle in heaven’) which is actually based on a Norwegian folk tune and the relaxing groove is driven by a shuffling drumbeat from Jarle Vespestad who excels throughout with his sensitive percussive accompaniment. On the melodic midtempo number ‘Staying There’, there are some New Orleans-esque drum rolls from Vespestad. Meanwhile for a quintessential ECM-sound one need look no further than the superb ‘The Embrace’ which has both lyricism and grace in abundance [...] what is particularly impressive about the album is how the formations shift effortlessly and thus the austere sounding ballad ‘The Gift’ is performed as a trio minus horn as is the laid-back opener ‘Right There’ [...] In summation, nothing is rushed and everything fits into a logical progression where the compositions develop organically and there is a good deal of telepathic interplay between the individual constituents.
Tim Stenhouse, UK Vibe

Wieder zelebriert man auf ‘Extended Circle’ die Bedeutung von Pausen und den warmen, homogenen Bandsound, diees Mal vielleicht mit noch mehr mit ‚quiet gospel fire’. Gustavsen reflektiert mit Stücken wie ‚Eg Veit I Himmerik Ei Borg’ (‚Ein Schloss im Himmel’) seine Wurzeln in der Kirchenmusik, bleibt dabei aber immer zart und subtil. Dieses Quartett ist ein Paradebeispiel für die Virtuosität des Einfachen.
Martin Schuster, Concerto

Es mutet an wie Jazz, schon allein aufgrund der Tatsache, dass die Kombination Piano-Bass-Schlagzeug-Saxofon eine klassische Jazz-Besetzung ist. Einige Stücke beruhen auch auf völlig freien Improvisationen. Doch Gustavsens individuelles Bekenntnis zwischen Wahrheitssuche und Dienst an der Schönheit geht weit über jeden Jazz-Kanon hinaus. […] Die Einheit von Sinn und Form, die in der Postmoderne tatsächlich zu großen Teilen verloren gegangen zu sein scheint, wird in Tord Gustavsens eher postromantischen Klangexegesen wieder hergestellt. Die vier Norweger stecken voller Hingabe und Inbrunst, hinter der sie sich selbst mit ihren spielerischen Ambitionen weit zurücknehmen können.
Wolf Kampmann, Jazzthetik


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