Reviews that mention Frode Gjerstad

September 1, 2020

Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Kent Carte/John Stevens

Blue Cat
NoBusiness Records NBLP 130

Franz Koglmann


Black Monk BMCD-01

Franz Koglmann


Black Monk BMCD-02

Establishing absolute European improvised music free of American influences was as much of a mug’s game in the late 20th Century as Donald Trump’s xenophobic directives have been during the past four years. Those like Derek Bailey who maintained that stance – while still playing with any non-Europeans who came along – ended up looking foolish. Far more prescient were players like the one here who created a sound mosaic that didn’t bother with geographical origins. MORE

October 13, 2019


Day Two
NoBusiness Records CD 114

ICP 10-tet


Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 060

Jimmy Giuffe3

Graz Live 1961

ezz-thetics 1001

Keith Tippett

The Unlonely Raindancer

Discus 81 CD

Sounds of Liberation

Sounds of Liberation

Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 057

Something in the Air: Reassessing 1960s, 1970s and 1980s Jazz through via New Reissues

By Ken Waxman

Reissues of recorded music serve a variety of functions. Allowing us to experience sounds from the past is just one of them. More crucially, and this is especially important in terms of Free Jazz and Free Music, it restores to circulation sounds that were overlooked and/or spottily distributed on first appearance. Listening to those projects now not only provides an alternate view of musical history, but in many cases also provides a fuller understanding of music’s past. MORE

June 15, 2017


At Club 7
NotTwo MW 953-2

By Ken Waxman

Recorded in late 1982, one week before keyboardist Eivin One Pedersen quit Detail, which had recently become a quartet when bassist Johnny Mbizo Dyani joined drummer John Stevens, Pedersen and, reedist Frode Gjerstad, At Club 7 is the only document of the band in this configuration. Although Pedersen (1956-2012) played with fellow Norwegian Gjerstad in the Calling Signals group a decade later, it appears that cooperation with Briton Stevens (1940-1990) and South African Dyani (1945-1986) didn’t work out. MORE

December 6, 2016


NotTwo MW939-2

By Ken Waxman

Borah Bergman, who would have turned 90 December 13, but who died in 2012, once said he viewed art as a “fight”. But the pugnacious pianist would have viewed this trio session as a cordial skirmish rather than an all-out battle. Certainly this encounter with German reedist Peter Brötzmann and Norwegian alto saxophonist Frode Gjerstad might ironically be defined as friendly fire. None of the participants hold back, yet the take-away is alliance not annihilation. MORE

August 6, 2016

Artist Feature

Frode Gjerstad
By Ken Waxman

After more than three decades on the cutting edge of free music, Norwegian saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, 68, is more modest than he should be. “I realized very early that I couldn’t make a living playing the music I was interested in,” relates the Stavanger-based musician. “So I got an education and became a teacher while still playing.” Merely describing himself as a teacher downplays that Gjerstad taught economics, social science and sound design at university and college. Plus, before Gjerstad made the transition to full-time playing about 10 years ago, he worked steadily with some of the music’s heaviest hitters including drummer John Stevens, pianist Borah Bergman and cornetist Bobby Bradford. “I’m happy that I didn’t become a full time musician at an early age. With kids and a wife I stayed at home and could concentrate on the music I like. I’m not a big spender plus my wife has always been very helpful. She owns a kindergarten and I help her with that. She has been my biggest supporter all these years.” MORE

April 7, 2016

Bobby Bradford-Frode Gjerstad Quartet

The Delaware River
NoBusiness NBLP 87

By Ken Waxman

There may be 5,251 miles separating Los Angeles and Stavanger, but L.A.-based cornetist Bobby Bradford, 81, and Norwegian saxophonist/clarinetist Frode Gjerstad, 67, are so attuned in their playing that it sounds like they’re next door neighbors with daily practice sessions. On this, their fourth quartet disc, the collaborative inspiration is as high as usual. Each time they play the brass specialist and the reedist cement a relationship that goes back to the ‘70s and ‘80s when each played separately, then together with the late British drummer John Stevens. Like a TV series invigorated by gradually adding new characters though this The Delaware River is more than a two character playlet. MORE

November 16, 2015

Label Spotlight

PNL Records
By Ken Waxman

Clichés frequently contain a kernel of truth. For instance apply the adage “if you want something done right, do it yourself” to drummer Paal Nilssen-Love’s Oslo-based PNL record label and the bromide makes perfect sense. Although recording for other imprints – which he still does – since the early ‘90s, by 2007 Nilssen-Love had so many projects he wanted to expose that he decided to become a label owner himself.

“I wanted to be more hands on,” he recalls. “Already in 2007 I was on several labels with various bands which is fine enough, but I wanted to do things myself. I wouldn’t say that I had been chasing labels with a ton of recordings but I figured that I couldn’t depend on other labels to have the music released. There´s also a long tradition of musicians putting out records themselves. You’re in full – well almost – control of the product and if something goes wrong, you’re the one to blame. It makes things easier that way.” MORE

June 6, 2015


First Detail
Rune Grammofon RCD 2166

By Ken Waxman

Odd man out who plays hot free, rather than cool Nordic, jazz Stavanger-based multi-reedist Frode Gjerstad (b.1948) had to wait for the 21st Century and his nurturing of a new generation of Norwegian improvisers to gain local accolades. Starting in the ‘80s however, it was overseas that he connected with like-minded associates and this fascinating CD preserves the first-ever session by the Detail group, whose impetus came from freewheeling British drummer John Stevens (1940-1990), Gjerstad’s first and most important foreign contact. Stevens, who would have turned 75 this month, was one of the progenitors of BritImprov in the mid-‘60s, founded the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and worked with dizzying array of other musicians in many contexts. Detail’s first long-standing configuration was a trio with bassist Johnny Dyani. But for one year it was a quartet including Stavanger keyboardist Eivin One Pedersen (1956-2012), a long time Gjerstad associate, who along with the reedist and drummer, completes the nascent trio here. MORE

March 18, 2015

Label Spotlight:

Rune Grammofon
By Ken Waxman

Helping to define and preserve sometimes uncategorizable improvised music was one of the goals of Norwegian Rune Kristoffersen when he started his Oslo-based Rune Grammofon (RG) label in 1997. “A new scene was forming with young artists doing exciting music,” he recalls. “But they had nowhere to release the music since the majors weren’t interested.” Kristoffersen decided to fill the gap, and by the end of this year RG will have released 176 sessions that touch on aspects of folk, jazz, ambient, electronic and rock. Artists include Supersilent, Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen’s trio and Mats Gustafsson’s Fire big band, with some popular discs like Supersilent’s repressed many times; and with most of the catalogue still in print. That’s a pretty impressive indication of support for novel Nordic sounds from someone who in the ‘80s released six albums as one-half of the fashionable Norwegian pop duo Fra Lippo Lippi. MORE

December 30, 2011

Calling Signals 07

Live from Cafe Sting
Loose Toque LT 020

Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble


Libra Records 204-028

While the lowly accordion is probably the butt of more nasty jokes than any other instrument – Q: What’s the definition of a gentleman? A: Someone who can play the accordion but doesn’t – questing musicians are overcoming its square reputation to expose it in improvised music contexts. Plus not every one hears or plays it the same way.

On Live from Cafe Sting for instance, Norwegian Eivin One Pedersen uses his squeeze-box to take the chordal instrument’s role in a Jazz quartet otherwise consisting of veteran players: Stavanger’s Frode Gjerstad on clarinets and alto saxophone; London’s Nick Stephens on bass and Cape Town’s Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums. Watershed on the other hand features New York’s Andrea Parkins adding her accordion wizardry to traditional and original tunes reflecting Min-Yoh or traditional Japanese music. Considering that accordions are as prevalent in traditional Japanese music as djembes are Baroque compositions, Parkins’ keys and bellows add unique colors to the eight tracks here. One must also bear in mind that Watershed, made up of five Satoko Fujii compositions, is anything but authentic Japanese folk music. With the rest of the band consisting of Fujii’s piano, Natsuki Tamura’s trumpet and Curtis Hasselbring’s trombone, the sound also becomes close to try-anything American folk music. MORE

October 10, 2011

Loose Torque

Label Spotlight
By Ken Waxman

London’s Loose Torque label is the audio equivalent of a small press publisher which concentrates on aesthetics. Just as those firms’ limited-edition books are printed on high-quality paper with covers produced by hand-operated letterpress, Loose Torque CDRs are computer-burned in batches of 100, using specialist Taiyo Yuden discs, with professionally designed packaging.

Loose Torque is the brainchild of veteran British bassist Nick Stephens, who describes himself as “artist-producer-runner. I play on and record the music, mix and edit it, think of titles, burn, print and pack the discs and take them to the post office.” Founded in 2005, Loose Torque has already released 21 CDRs, ranging from archival sessions with such major UK players as alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and drummer John Stevens, to contemporary dates that showcase Norwegian saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, British trumpeter Jon Corbett and South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo among others. The label’s literal in-house art staff is Stephens’ wife Fay, an illustrator and New Media designer, who also maintains the Web site. MORE

March 14, 2011

Gjerstad, Skaset, Grenager, Tafjord, Mølstad, Moe

Conrad Sound CNR 304



+3db 011

Forging a path midway between the extremes of so-called cold Nordic Jazz, represented by the ECM label, and newer, looser varieties typified by Scandinavian bands such as the Thing and Atomic are these two ensembles. Each taking cues from modern chamber music, both bands eschew percussion instruments and base their strategies on the somewhat abrasive interactions of brass, reed and strings.

Interestingly enough, one member of Sekstett is veteran reedist Frode Gjerstad, who has been leading the fight against enervating music since the 1970s. Besides working with the likes of British drummer John Stevens and American bassist William Parker, Gjerstad has organized groups for like-minded local players, ranging from a trio to the larger Circulasione Totale Orchestra, in which Sekstett’s tubaist Børre Mølstadis is a member. Meanwhile French hornist Hild Sofie Tafjord and cellist Lene Grenager, best-known for their work in the rock-influenced, chamber-improv quartet Spunk, are featured on both CDs. Bergen-based flutist Bjørnar Habbestad and Trondheim-based bassist Michael Francis Duch, who also flit among Rock, Jazz and Free Music, fill out Lemur. Meanwhile Sekstett’s other core members are guitarist Håvard Skaset and bassist Guro Skumsnes Moe, who together play in a variety of settings, most notably the Bay/Oslo Mirror Trio. MORE

July 28, 2010

Calling Signals 08

From Café Oto
Loose Torque No #


The Early Years

Ping Pong 003

Perhaps it’s an example of the dry sense of humor that those in the United Kingdom are supposed to possess, but less than five years separate the fine trio improvisations featuring saxophonist Lol Coxhill on The Early Years from the equally stirring quartet improvisations with Coxhill and Norwegian reedist Frode Gjerstad in the front line.

If earlier in this century are “early years” what about the prior career of Coxhill, which in improvised music dates from the late 1960s and professionally from the 1950s – and who sometimes seems to have played with absolutely every musician in the UK and the Continent? His associates on the disc, drummer Steve Noble, who was involved with jazz and improvised music by the early 1980s with Rip, Rag and Panic among others; and bassist John Edwards was committed to the sound at a similar juncture, at first with the Pointy Birds and B-shops for The Poor.. MORE

November 12, 2009

Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon

Ulrichsberg, Austria
April 30 –May 2, 2009

A site-specific performance that took into account the dimensions and machinery of a still-functioning 1853 linen factory; resounding interface between pulsating electronic and acoustic instruments; and a full-force finale involving a mid-sized band were among the notable performances at 2009’s Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon.

Remarkable as well as the consistently high quality of the 11 concerts that took place during the 23rd edition of this three-day festival, is the location: a farming and small manufacturing village of fewer than 7,000 people about 60 kilometres west of Linz, Austria. MORE

August 14, 2006


This That and The Other
Loose Torque LT 003

By Ken Waxman

An aviary symphony, this CD matches two veteran European reed players on six longish explorations of the timbral qualities of high-pitched horns. Anchored only by the steadfast stopping of acoustic bassist Nick Stephens, England’s Lol Coxhill on soprano saxophone, and Norway’s Frode Gjerstad on Eb and Bb clarinets and alto saxophone, explore every nuance of staccato shrillness.

Although the reedists, in their first recorded face-off, are front-and-centre, it’s Stephens who earns MVP status. The bassist, who also recorded, mixed and edited the session before releasing it on his own label, utilizes nearly every bull fiddle technique available to both accompany the players singly, and serve as the glue holding together their improvisations. MORE

July 7, 2006

Calling Signals

Dreams in Dreams

Calling Signals
Calling Signals
Loose Torque LT 004

Band names are a convenience, usually created when players don’t want to call a group so-and-so’s quartet. Yet the designation can also be deceptive if the make-up of a group changes substantially without altering the name.

So it is with these CDs by two ensembles called Calling Signals. The quartet was initially put together following an all-day memorial concert for British drummer John Stevens by British bassist Nick Stephens and Norwegian reedist Frode Gjerstad, who had both played extensively with Stevens. The self-titled CD is a 1996 edition of the group with its founders joined by South African drummer Louis Moholo of Blue Notes fame and Dane Hasse Poulsen on guitars and effects, best-known for his association with French reedist Louis Sclavis. MORE

September 22, 2003


The Voice Imitator
Balance Point Acoustics BPA 006

The Welsh Chapel
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1161

What do you get when you put a German and two Americans together in a small room or unite a Norwegian and two Englishmen? While those situations may sound like the set up for a joke from the Second World War, the correct answer, from the evidence of these CDs, is exemplary improvisation.

The Norwegian-British concord involves veteran Nordic alto saxophonist Frode Gjerstad --who at one point led a band featuring the late British drum pioneer John Stevens -- and two players from a younger British generation. Singly and together Londoners bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders have played with many of the United Kingdom’s reed heavy hitters: John Butcher, Paul Dunmall and Evan Parker. When they connect with Gjerstad on these five instant compositions the result is superior Free Jazz. MORE

July 7, 2003


Never Too Late But Always Too Early
Eremite MTE 037/038

Sharp Knives Cut Deeper
Splasc (h) CDH 850

More than 35 years after he roared onto the international Free Jazz scene, German reedist Peter Brötzmann’s playing still seems as ferocious as ever. This is a good thing. For unlike some of his contemporaries who have settled into a sort of middle-aged timidness, the tenor saxophonist still improvises with the same intensity and commitment at 60 as he did when he was 25. MORE

June 22, 2002


Last First
Falçata-Galia FALÇ-0007/0079

No matter how proficient the musicians are, every group takes time to find its particular niche and gel into a coherent whole. Especially vulnerable are diminutive groups such as trios, which alter considerably along with the players. No one, for instance, could confuse the Jimmy Giuffre 3 with Jim Hall and Ralph Peña with Giuffre’s trio featuring Paul Bley and Steve Swallow, or mix up Sonny Rollins’ recording with Ray Brown and Shelly Manne with his session with Henry Grimes and Pete LaRoca. MORE

December 17, 2001


Hello, Goodbye

During the long period in the 1970s and 1980s when he was metaphorically alone in the wilderness, as practically the only advanced improviser in Norway, alto saxophonist Frode Gjerstad developed an extended playing relationship with British drummer John Stevens. However this recently discovered almost 73½-minute document is the only time the two worked in tandem with guitarist Derek Bailey.

Bailey, who is often as theoretical as Stevens was spontaneous, was along with the drummer an early BritImprov creator and worked with Stevens many times as a sort of “fellow traveler” to the drummer’s Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME). But this disc preserves the only meeting -- so far -- between the guitarist and the alto saxophonist. Recorded by Gjerstad on a portable DAT machine during a 1992 concert in his hometown of Stavanger, and computer-corrected in 2000, it’s an instructive example of how three originals can interact without giving up any of their individuality. Most of the tunes flow one into another, with the only real break occurring about 20 minutes after the three begin. MORE

September 10, 2001


The Blessing Light: For John Stevens
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1126

To mix a couple of metaphors: Frode Gjerstad is a throwback finally able to benefit from the fruits of his labors.

In other words, the Norwegian reed man is a go-for-broke, emotive stylist, whose impassioned reed forays call to mind iconoclastic free jazz forefathers like Ornette Coleman or Charles Tyler rather than the hushed chamber timbres of many of his northern European peers. Furthermore, after spending nearly two decades limited to playing with foreign musicians, because only they were sophisticated enough to grasp the nuances of his sound, he's finally put together an all-Norwegian working band. But the veteran improviser had to himself organize and lead the Circulasione Totale Orchestra of very young Norwegian musicians to finally find local playing partners to fill out his trio. MORE