CD REVIEW: Tore Brunborg – Slow Snow

Tore Brunborg – Slow Snow
(ACT 9586-2. CD review by Jon Turney)

Tore Brunborg hasn’t had the international acclaim of other Norwegian saxophonists such as Jan Garbarek, from an earlier generation, or Marius Neset, from a later one. But a career stretching over more than three decades has seen him perform with stars including Manu Katché and Pat Metheny. British audiences have heard him with John Taylor in the Anglo-Scandinavian trio Meadow or, more likely, in pianist Tord Gustavsen’s quartet. His typical contribution to a Gustavsen gig is to supply whisper quiet accompaniment to the leader’s devoutly devotional piano, then bring things to a long-awaited climax with some relatively unrestrained tenor sax preaching when Gustavsen eventually finds his gospel groove.

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The first track here replays that arc rather precisely, with Brunborg himself furnishing the soft piano chords that establish the atmosphere, fully two minutes before the saxophone joins in. It sets the style for much of the set. Pleasant if not especially striking themes and simple motifs. A disinclination to use three chords where two will do. Harmonic or even melodic movement emerging slowly. Unhurried, understated, and a thousand miles from the clattery rhythms and bustling lines of contemporary New York post bop.

It is a familiar musical neighbourhood – most jazz listeners would take this for an ECM recording in a blindfold test – perhaps even a little too familiar. Steinar Raknes on bass has some fine grooves. Per Oddvar Johansen on drums is not given a lot to do much of the time, but does it unobtrusively well.

The secret sauce here is Eivind Aarset’s guitar, whose sound has so many dimensions it must arise from some kind of fractal process. The easiest contributions to peg are the ocasional Frisell-ish twangs and brief fuzz-filled outbursts. But there are a host of other subtle colourings and commentaries. His constantly changing additions to the soundscape are an excellent, electronically enhanced complement to the solidly rooted lyricism of the saxophone. Like Brunborg, he is more likely to hint at deep feeling below the surface than indulge in anything more demonstrative – sometimes Scandinavian jazz can seem very English that way. But the combination is transformative, producing a carefully wrought session that is more than the sum of its parts.

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