A sell-out show at the Hub was appropriate for Gustavsen, a pianist who frequently referred to his pieces as “wordless hymms” – the Hub, like most of the other medium sized venues in Edinburgh is a converted church (and a very fine building it is too – you can see views of it here).
His trio played with a quiet, precise elegance – beautiful, subtle tunes which build layers of minimal music until the whole is quite transformed. in doing so, they build up a large amount of energy, too – surprising if you have only heard their music on disc. There was a sparseness to Gustavsen’s playing that worked well with the spiritual (if not bluesy) material.
The three musicians – Gustavsen’s regular band of Harald Johnsen on bass and Jarle Vespestad on drums, playing only a two-drum kit – were completely at ease within the music, working together to move it forward. Though the trio bears Gustavsen’s name, Johnsen and Vespestad bring much to the party, enabling the pianist to develop his ideas. As the music developed and the themes developed, Gustavsen contorted himself to reach the keys, crossing his hands and stretching the length of the keyboard.
Vespestad was particularly impressive, playing with an intensity that is rare whilst never overpowering the subtleties of the music. His brush work was equisite, providing a gentle energy, pushing the music along. The concert finished with him playing “air drums” – the swish of the brushes through the air being enough to keep the rhythm going.
The audience were deeply respectful – almost awestruck, they waited until the last resonance, the last sound of each tune had escaped the piano before applauding. The applause was loud, genuine and heartfelt – this felt like a very special, personal occasion.