The well-traveled and nearly telephathic Norwegian trio of reedist Frode Gjerstad performing on alto sax and clarinet with drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and bassist Jon Rune Strom are joined by NY trombonist Steve Swell for a live concert at at Constellation in Chicago, 2014.
Gjerstad, Frode Trio (w/ Steve Swell)
Released in: Norway
"Last Wednesday was a free show at Constellation with legendary Norwegian free jazz reed player Frode Gjerstad as part of their weekly Sound Of The City workshop. The first set is the invited group and for the second set local musicians (who attend the first set, mind you) are invited to join the band to improvise together in the second round. But this trio of Gjerstad with fellow Norwegians including the (awesomely named) bassist Jon Rune Strom, drumming maelstrom Paal Nilssen-Love, and special guest NYC based trombonist Steve Swell were so locked on after years of playing together that I couldn't even imagine someone else just hopping aboard.
So I just stayed for the first set but what a set it was! Before they even started playing I was struck by Gjerstad's demeanor. Playing crazy intense free jazz tends to bring to mind stern faces but Gjerstad just stood there chuckling to himself lightly as he eyed his fellow players. He maintained this feel throughout the set even in more focused passages which to me made the improvisations all the more inviting. To do a film comparison, if you go into this expecting Ingmar Bergman, Gjerstad's group instead captured more the feel of Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki's deadpan, lovingly flawed films.
The first part of the set had the effect on me of just watching what was happening more as a slightly detached observer just noticing the different waves of sound. But then Swell and Gjerstad started a passage of playing an airy duet together in which they tried to blow more through their instruments without creating much sound. This really sucked me in (pun sort of intended). Suddenly I felt as if I was in the mix and the intensity of the players really picked up after this meditative section. Strom started karate chopping his bass and sliding his hand down the strings, Swell repeatedly sprayed down his slide to keep it slick for his intense soloing, and Nilssen-Love started throwing more metallic stuff on his drums to add more vibrations into his percussive attack. The pieces that followed could then stretch on and on but the second piece suddenly ended like a dream the band was suddenly roused from. It looked like they were about to take a bow and end the set when they suddenly changed gears and played a super fast, short blistering final number. Unpredictability was the name of the game here."-roadsidepicnics.wordpress.com
• Show Bio for Steve Swell
"Born in Newark, NJ, Steve Swell has been an active member of the NYC music community since 1975. He has toured and recorded with many artists from mainstreamers such as Lionel Hampton and Buddy Rich to so called outsiders as Anthony Braxton, Bill Dixon, Cecil Taylor and William Parker. He has over 40 CDs as a leader or co-leader and is a featured artists on more than 100 other releases. He runs workshops around the world and is a teaching artist in the NYC public school system focusing on special needs children.
Swell has worked on music transcriptions of the Bosavi tribe of New Guinea for MacArthur fellow, Steve Feld in 2000. His CD, "Suite For Players, Listeners and Other Dreamers" (CIMP) ranked number 2 in the 2004 Cadence Readers Poll. He has also received grants from USArtists International in 2006, MCAF (LMCC) awards in 2008 and 2013 and has been commissioned twice on the Interpretations Series at Merkin Hall in 2006 and at Roulette in 2012.
Steve was nominated for Trombonist of the Year 2008 & 2011 by the Jazz Journalists Association, was selected Trombonist of the Year 2008-2010 , 2012 and 2014-2015 by the magazine El Intruso of Argentina and received the 2008 Jubilation Foundation Fellowship Award of the Tides Foundation. Steve has also been selected by the Downbeat Critics Poll in the Trombone category each year from 2010-2016.
Steve is presently a teaching artist through the American Composers Orchestra, Healing Arts Initiative , Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center (Bronx), the Jazz Foundation of America and Leman Manhattan Preparatory School.
Steve was also awarded the 2014 Creative Curricula grant (LMCC) for the project: "Metamorphoses: Modern Mythology in Sound and Words" which was taught in a month long residency at Baruch College Campus High School in Manhattan."-Steve Swell Website (http://www.steveswell.com/SteveSwellBio.htm)
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• Show Bio for Paal Nilssen-Love
"Paal Nilssen-Love was born in Molde, Norway, Dec 24. 1974, and raised at a jazz club in Stavanger, run by his parents. It was natural to choose his fathers drums as his instrument and jazz as his work. From 1990 on he took actively part in the jazz milieu in Stavanger and joined bands with established musicians such as trumpeter Didrik Ingvaldsen and saxophonist Frode Gjerstad. In many ways, these collaborations were essential as they pointed out the directions for Paal's later musical development and career. During his studies at the Jazz dept at the University in Trondheim, where the first self initiated bands were established, things developed really fast - and Paal was nationally acknowledged at the age of 20.
The forming of the quartet Element in 1993 in many ways represented the start of a new phase in Paal's musical life. Element musically became a platform for several other groups with bassist Flaten and pianist Wiik, and lead to collaborations with Iain Ballamy and Chris Potter, amongst others. Paal moved to Oslo in 1996, where he joined and/or took part in the forming of bands like Vindaloo, SAN, Håkon Kornstad Tio, The Quintet and Frode Gjerstad Trio. He later on got more into self initiated projects and collaborations with Swedish musicians, such as pianist Sten Sandell and saxophonist Mats Gustafsson.
Paal played his first solo concert in 1999, and since then the solo concept has been an important part of his work: "Everyone should try doing some solo work, just to feel who you really are and what gets you going". His solo album "Sticks and stones" was put out in 2001 on SOFA Rec.
Being active in several bands at the same time has always been Paal's deliberate working method. He is constantly conscious about the projects he is in, as his participation in each and one of them is fully dedicated. Playing is not about getting from start to goal, but rather being in an everlasting process, a continuous movement where each new piece of music performed is a prolongation of the latest. Hence, keeping focused and concentrating all energy around what's happening there and then is of greatest importance - as is the freedom in the music, the ability of being free within the expression.
All bands, although various styles and musical versatility in general, represent important pieces that make up a total, and all bands are formed or joined with a clear vision. Today Paal's portfolio includes Atomic, School Days, The Thing, Frode Gjerstad Trio, Sten Sandell Trio, Scorch Trio, Territory Band, FME, and various duo projects such as with reedmen Ken Vandermark, John Butcher, Mats Gustafsson, organist Nils Henrik Asheim and noise wizard Lasse Marhaug. And not to forget the recently joined Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet."-Paal Nilssen-Love Website (http://www.paalnilssen-love.com/biography.php)
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• Show Bio for Jon Rune Strom
"Strøm grew up on an island in the north-west of Norway. Influenced u. A. By Gary Peacock and Frode Gjerstad , with the first shots were (East of the West, 2011), he plays in the Norwegian free jazz scene with Paal Nilssen-Loves Group Large Unit, Petter Wettre and Mats Gustafsson Nu Ensemble, also with musicians like Mats Äleklint , John Dikeman , Martin Kitchen , Thomas Johansson and Tollef Østvang in formations such as SAKA Trio, Universal Indians, All Included and Friends & Neighbors. 2013, it issued a solo album Jøa.-Wikipedia (translated Google) (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Rune_Str¿m)
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• Show Bio for Frode Gjerstad
"Frode Gjerstad was born in Stavanger, Norway, 24-03-1948. He started trying to play improvised music as a trumpeter in 1968. When he moved to Lund in Sweden (1971 to 1975) he got a chance to meet, talk and play with musicians interested in this music. He had at that time started playing tenor saxophone (1969).
After he came back to Stavanger in 1975 he started collaborating with keyboardist Eivin One Pedersen. Together, they explored many different aspects of improvised music, as a duo or with others, but it was not until 1981, when they first played with John Stevens, that he had a real chance to feel what a dedicated musicians can do to the music-making.
At the early stage of his career, he choose mainly to play with international musicians because there was no tradition in Norway for the free music. However, after the club Blå opened in Oslo in 1996, a good number of younger musicians are now picking up on the music.
His relationship with British drummer, John Stevens which started in -81 and lasted up until his death in -94, was of great importance both musically as well as on a personal level. Through Stevens, he was introduced to some of the finest British improvisers and got to know their way of playing. Together, they led the trio "Detail" starting with Johnny Dyani on bass. And after Johnny died in -86, with Kent Carter.
He has also been active, running a larger group of mostly Norwegian musicians, the Circulasione Totale Orchestra. He started the group using electric instruments and modern rock-oriented rhythms. He has used the band to present his own compositions as well as a workshop and a place for young people to get to know free music. The band presented a commissioned work at the Molde Festival in -89 with a 13 man band combining free improvisations, compositions as well as rapping and scratching.(Three horns, three bassists, three drummers, accordeon, guitar a rapper and a DJ). The Circulasione Totale Orchestra is a powerful ever-changing band.
But it´s not easy to keep such a big group together. In 1998 he decided to keep the core of the band which at that time was Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and Øyvind Storesund on bass and try to develop that sound. It became Frode Gjerstad Trio. So far the trio has toured Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Polen, Italy, Austria, Portugal, England, Canada and the United States.
He has received several grants from various foundations and has been very active in the Norwegian Jazzmusicians Federation as well as in the committee for the Norwegian Contemporary Music Federation. Voted Jazz Musician of the Year in Norway, 1997. Part of the price was a concert where he could freely choose which musicians to use. This was the first meeting with Hamid Drake and William Parker. The concert became a tour of Scandinavia in -97 and the US in 2000.
US Pianist Borah Bergman has also been important to Frode. They first met in -94 and have played as a duo and also as trio with Evan Parker and later Peter Brøtzmann. Borah has been a great inspiration and a challenge over the years!
English bassist Nicholas Stephens first played with Frode in 1984. He played electric bass at the time, but it was not until after John Stevens died in 1994 that they started working together as "Calling Signals". First with a tour of England in 1995 with Paul Rutherford and Terje Isungset. And in 1996 with Louis Moholo and Danish guitarist, Hasse Poulsen. The latest version of the group has been with accordionist Eivin One Pederesen and Paal Nilssen-Love or Tony Marsh on drums. Frode also met and worked with US percussionist Kevin Norton in 2004 and they have found a common ground. They have a trio with Nicholas Stephens: Instinctual Eye.
Electronic music started to make an impact when he met Lasse Marhaug. They have played some concerts together and made some recordings. Lasses sounds have opened up a whole new territory of possibilities and came at a time when Frode started playing clarinets. A very fruitful combination!
Another side of the electronic thing was the group Ultralyd which was Frodes idea: to bring in a loud powerful electric bass with drums, guitar and reeds. After about a year, he left the band because the sound level was unbearable for the old man.! And he left it to the youngsters to decide how loud the band should be. Still, he has continued playing with Morten, Anders and Kjetil in other projects."-Frode Gjerstad Website (http://frodegjerstad.com/?page_id=162)
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Recorded live at Constellation in Chicago, Illinois, on November 19th, 2014 by David Zuchowski.
Paal Nilssen-Love-drums, percussion
Jon Rune Strom-bass
Frode Gjerstad-alto saxophone, clarinet
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1. Con 28:57
2. Stell 9:10
3. Ation 23:09