Two years after “Restored, Returned” introduced this line-up and with extensive touring behind them, on “The Well” the four musicians of the Gustavsen Quartet really blossom as a band in a programme of new tunes by Tord. Sax player Tore Brunborg is given an important voice here, his melodic lines combining bluesy sonority and Nordic cry. Gently but effectively propelled by the subtle pulses of drummer Jarle Vespestad and bassist Mats Eilertsen, Gustavsen’s gospel-tinged, unhurried piano playing displays a characteristic warmth and tenderness.
Norwegian Hardanger fiddle specialist Nils Okland has a broad range of musical interests, as illustrated by his eclectic discography. His solo album Monograph (ECM, 2011) spotlighted his lyrical, folkloric side; Lysøen—Hommage à Ole Bull (ECM, 2011) with keyboardist Sigbjorn Apeland payed tribute to the Norwegian classical tradition; Lumen Drones (ECM, 2014) found him making trance music with two rock musicians; and the recent Felt Like Old Folk (Smeraldina-Rima, 2016) collaboration with the Belgian duo Linus was almost completely improvised. He was also a member of Thomas Stronen's "Time is a Blind Guide" band, although he does not appear on the recording.
The second ECM album by Norwegian cooperative group The Source gets back to basics. Since its formation in 1993, when founder-members Trygve Seim, Øyvind Brække and Per Oddvar Johansen were all students at the Trøndelag Conservatory of Music in Trondheim, The Source has been very much a moveable feast, its motto, "No two concerts alike!" The group has embraced the wildest stylistic collisions, working variously with poets and DJs, rai vocalists and rappers, ice hockey players, and conceptual and performance artists. Their collaborators have ranged from rock band Motorpsycho to classical musicians including the Cikada String Quartet (as on their 2000 ECM recording The Source and Different Cikadas). Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of their performances have been as a quartet, most of their music was written for quartet, and this eponymously titled disc addresses a backlog of much-played material whose appearance on disc is overdue.