Listening to….Torbjørn Dyrud

Torbjørn Dyrud’s 2008 album ‘Quietly to the fields’  (Grappa Records GRCD4286) is an album of six solo piano pieces and three collaborative works with accordionist Stian Carstensen (from Farmer’s Market) and trumpeter Matthias Eick (from Jaga Jazzist & his own stellar ECM quartet).  The 35-year old Dyrud originates from the central Oppland area of Norway and still makes his home in Eidsvoll. 

A clue to his style would be his close involvement with religious and educational bodies in Scandinavia; this is no wild man of jazz but someone whose roots lie much closer to religious – and specifically – to choral music.  Like his compatriot & fellow keyboardist  Øystein Sevåg, Dyrud’s style doesn’t really engage with jazz or the blues on any level, but plugs into what is often referred to as ‘New Age’ music.  It is perhaps only the presence of guests Stian Carstensen and Matthias Eick that suggest that Dyrud’s music has any kinship with jazz at all.

‘New Age’ is a term that is often used by jazz fans to deride a style of instrumental music that owes more to Richard Clayderman and Rachmaninov than it does to Thelonious Monk.  They regard it as being a music that makes obvious harmonic/melodic choices and is devoid of any artistic rigour – something which I don’t think can be applied to Dyrud here.  It’s true that Dyrud is not a musician who delves into rhythmic or harmonic complexities in the way a jazz pianist would do – and he probably does look to classical music for  inspiration ahead of anything else.  However, he is clearly open to the possibilities that working with jazz players can bring; something his fellow-countrymen Øystein Sevåg and,  in particular, Kjetil Bjørnstad have done previously –  to great effect in Bjørnstad’s case.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the pieces that work best for me on ‘Quietly to the fields’ are those where Dyrud collaborates with Eick & Carstensen – in particular, the track ‘Trees‘ and the trio version of ‘Spring Song’.   It will be interesting to see whether Dyrud pursues this career path or reverts to his academic/religious roots – hopefully, he will once again open himself up to the possibilities that come through working with jazz musicians as it is something that clearly suits the music he makes

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