Album: What Was Said

Artist: Tord Gustavsen

Label: ECM

Release Date: February 26, 2016

Tord G 2-26

The Upshot: You might not understand the Norwegian words being sung, but it doesn’t matter – the feeling is what’s important on this program of church music.


Tord Gustavsen dives deeply into the art of multi-culturalism on #What Was Said#, his seventh album. Though joined by stalwart drummer Jarle Vespestad, the Norwegian keyboardist and improviser puts the focus on Simin Tander, a multi-lingual singer of Afghan and German descent. The trio presents a program of Norwegian church music, with lyrics either translated into Pashto (inspired by Sufi poetry) or adapted from the words of internationally acclaimed poet Rumi.

The origins of this music almost don’t matter, however, due to the sheer beauty on display. Tander’s lovely voice could sing her grocery list and still convey spiritual yearning and uplift. Gustavsen provides backdrops of piano and subtle electronics that give her perfect support without being intrusive. The same could be said for Vespestad, who lays out as often as he weighs in, creating a near-ambient pulse that provides color more than propulsion. Tander herself is a vocalist given more toward measured readings of the text, rather than belting – her takes on “Journey of Life,” “My Grief” and “Imagine the Fog Disappearing” are masterclasses in how to deliver a song. Gustavsen gets wordless showcases on “The Way You Play With My Heart,” with its nearly poppy melody, and “Rull,” which adds more overtly jazzy flavors.

The album ends with a triptych of sorts, as the gentle “Sweet Melting” flows into the rippling “Longing to Praise Thee” and back into “Sweet Melting Afterglow,” taking the record out on a sedately spiritual note. A lot of folks won’t understand the words being sung, but it doesn’t matter – the feeling is what’s important, and Gustavsen, Sander and Vespestad transfer it with honesty and grace.

DOWNLOAD: “Journey of Life,” “My Grief,” “Sweet Melting”


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