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Monday, November 13, 2023

Frode Gjerstad Trio - Live At The Empty Bottle Vol.1 & Vol.2

By Ferruccio Martinotti

Frode Gjerstad is certainly one of a kind and one of the usual suspects in our beloved music playground. Born in Stavanger in 1948, the multi-reeds Norwegian ace started playing within a band called Detail along with british drummer John Stevens, pianist Eivin Pedersen and bassist Kent Carter, releasing some pretty interesting albums along the 80’s (should it be of any interest for you, don’t miss First Detail, issued in 2015 by Rune Grammofon where you can catch them live in 1982 and Last Detail Live at Cafè Sting that seems to be their very last gig). 

In 1987 Gjerstad formed an open large ensemble called Circulasione Totale Orchestra, where young local talented musicians had the chance to play with, among many others, trumpeter Bobby Bradford, drummers Hamid Drake and Paal Nilssen-Love, bassists Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and Nick Stevens, percussionists Kevin Norton and Louis Moholo, reedist Sabeer Mateen. Soon later Circulasione Totale became the name of his own proper label. The project Calling Signals saw the man inflating the reeds along with Hasse Poulsen (guitar), Louise Moholo-Moholo, Paal Nilssen-Love, Tony Marsh (drums), Nick Stevens (bass), Lol Coxhill (soprano sax), John Corbett (trumpet, trombone). As a quartet he got the collaboration of drummer Pheeroan Ak Laff, pianist Borah Bergman, trumpeter Bobby Bradford and cellists Fred Lonberg-Holm and Amit Se. 

But Frode's favorite cup of tea is without any doubts the trio. We know several stellar line-ups (along with Wilber Morris, Rashid Bakr, William Parker, Hamid Drake, Rune Strom, Steve Swell) but the incarnation we are taking care of here is the one with the compadres Paal Nilssen-love and Oyvind Soresund as rhythm section, caught in action at Empty Bottle in Chicago in 2019, graced with the presence of the god himself, Peter Brotzmann, recorded and issued as vol.1 and vol.2, each one of them shared in two parts (1-2/3-4). 

The first volume is a pedal to metal, brutal, fierce assault that in his magmatic sound shows the ensemble delivering free music in its purest form: an Eric Dolphy would surely grant his blessing. On volume 2 the furious pace is slowing a bit (just a bit, keep the seat belt fastened), the interplay among the musicians is amazing and it is tremendously clear why there is a one and only Paal Nilssen-Love around. The last part (4) is in our humble opinion the most intriguing. For the first half, the sonic mood depict a sort of "bucolic" landscape, reminding us some of Mats Gustaffson's lateral projects, but we, old mangy alley cats, do clearly feel that the picture is misleading: the birds chirping in a strange way, the shadows are long, cold, sinister and in fact the "cruel music for cruel times" (god Peter dixit) starts erupting again, closing the circle in the way it has begun. 

For an uber complete list of what must be heard from Gjerstad, check an old unbeatable post by Stef, not for nothing called "Frode Gjerstad Galore": it is definitely thanks to musicians like him that the sonic sun keep on shining on the free Scandinavian skies.




Frode Gjerstad said...

Thanks writing. Unfortunately, there are many mistakes in the text:
DETAIL was basically Johnny Dyani, bass, John Stevens, drums and myself. But at the very beginning, John and I plus pianist Eivin One Pedersen was the band. Then Johnny came in early 1982 and evil One quit just before we recorded "Backwards and forwards".
BUT he was paret of the first Detail on Rune Grammofon because we did a tour in the fall of -82 and Johnny was unable to do the first gig, which is that record. We played as a trio (John, Dani and I) until Johnny died in the fall of 1986. Then Kent Carter joined us in. 1988 and we continued with that line-up until John died in the fall of 2004.
I formed Circulation totale Orchestra in 1982 with local musicians. We had a big concert at the Molde festival with 13 people in 1989, including a rapper and a DJ. some of the members had been with me from the start. but then it was time for anew incarnation of the band and I had some very young musicians playing, among them Paal Nilssen-Love at 15! the next step was 2008 with Bradford, Sabir, Norton etc. And we did a tour in 2009 where Hamid subbed for Paal.
The label was started in 1981. Recently, I changes the name to "circ.tot" with three new recordings this fall.
the Empty bottle was probably recorded in 2007. this trio started in 1998 and the tour was the last few gigs we did with Bassist Øyvind Storesund as he was beginning to play with a popular rock band. Paal and I stayed a duo, but 2010 Jon Rune Strøm joined and we are still playing together.
Again: thanks for supporting this music. I understand it's easy to mix up this, but as I had the time, I thought it would be good to make some corrections. Best Frode Gjerstad

Ferruccio said...

My apologies to you and the readers, thanks a lot for your time in cleaning it up

Frode Gjerstad said...

Sorry to confuse you even more....
Paal told me the Empty Bottle is from 2004. He had just joined the Brøtzmann 10-tette softer their concerts were done, we started doing our tour. I cannot say if this was the first gig on the tour we did. But Brøtz was still in town and came to our concert, bringing his horn. At that point we had done a few things with him in Scandinavia so he knew what we were up to...

Stef said...

Thanks Feruccio for the review, and thanks Frode for the rectification. Interesting insights indeed, and so many ramifications and bands that it's hard to follow. In Dutch we have the expression: it's so complicated that a cat would not even find its own kittens in it. Thanks both.

JG said...

Any chance of CD releases for these?

Lee said...

Grateful to have this music and to see more reviews of it on this site. I also recommend the Molde 2002 album with the same trio+ lineup