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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Frode Gjerstad, Ståle Liavik Solberg, Sten Sandell – Spor (Hispid, 2018) ****½

Frode Gjerstad’s small groupings fascinate me. Either the duos or trios under his own name or collaborations like this one with Ståle Liavik Solberg on percussion and Sten Sandell on piano; they are resourceful affairs. Always passionate improvisational groupings. What I particularly like about Gjerstad’s playing on the woodwinds is that he is an artist with no ego. He has collaborated with giants of free jazz and improvisation as much as with younger players. He always leaves room for the others to breathe, react and express themselves. He seems to me like the perfect partner.

Here on Spor, a recording of 45 minutes with all tracks entitled Spor 1 to 9 accordingly, he collaborates with two fellow Norwegians who are also not new in this game of exchanging thoughts and ideas through non idiomatic improvisation. Spor’s nine tracks seem like one long improvisation cut into nine pieces for the listener’s convenience. Their improvisations are built through small gestures and phrases. They know each other very well. As a trio their interaction is extraordinary, almost like one individual with many ideas.

I particularly enjoyed Sandell's percussion like attitude towards the keyboard. As the recording evolves, though, his focus loses this while fragments of melody become more audible. Gjerstad’s playing is intriguing in the way he has no need or will to dominate, a task so easy for a reedsman. He follows and leads at the same time, never letting his sound saturate the others. The percussion work of Solberg is fabulous: a gentle approach, calm yet full of energy that is aided from the fact that, many times, the piano is used as a percussion instrument especially on Spor’s first tracks. Solberg seems relaxed yet so focused. Excellent playing forming a basis for the other two to explore.

If Spor (correct if I’m wrong please) means orbit in Norwegian, then it is spot on about this fruitful collaboration. They clearly do move in exactly the same orbit… Even though an egalitarian state of mind is a requirement for improvisation (in my mind at least), it’s never easy to feel loose and give up your ego. Many times, even, let go your own very human need to express yourself by getting ahead of the others, leading them toward a direction of your own will. This is a recording of collective intentions and thoughts filled with ideas that are expressed at the same moment. Spontaneously. If I had to predict, Spor will find its way in my best of 2019 list.

@ koultouranafigo


Captain Hate said...

Your first paragraph sums up Frode perfectly. It seems like he tours here at least once a year and I never miss an opportunity to see him. He's very willing to discuss anything about his music including how Jon Rune Strom added an X factor to his trio that had them playing at a higher level.

Tom Burris said...

You have described Frode’s music perfectly, Fotis. Nice work!

Lee said...

Really excellent write-up, Fotis. I recently found that at some point, I'd sorted Frode's music in iTunes into a genre called "Frode Gjerstad," and you did a nice job describing what's unique about him that he could be his own genre of music.

Anonymous said...

I agrre with all,
One correction: Sten Sandell is Swedish