"The level of density
and interweaving dialogue astounds. There are paint-peeling moments
and places of delicacy".
Rose One Final Note Read full review http://www.onefinalnote.com/reviews/g/gjerstad-frode/calling-signals.asp
DOUBLE BASSIST Spring 2004
Stephens describes the profound impact that the atmosphere of the
misty Norwegian Fjords had on the two musicians as they worked intensively
in the studio. This concentrated atmosphere is immediately apparent
in the dulled, almost vulnerable beauty of the first track High, Southern
Norway. Stephens playing has a vocal quality, as he opens with
some beautifully controlled rising arpeggios that bend pitch and morph
between normal bowing and contasto. When Gjerstad enters, the two
musicians blend seamlessly, slithering around the scale rather than
resting on any one single note. Gjerstads saxophone playing is rooted
in Ornette Coleman, though the occasional gruffer honk is reminiscent
of Albert Ayler. However the groove of Rising More Slowly puts Gjerstad
closer to Sonny Rollins and Stephens responds to this rare sighting
of a regular metre by provoking a fierce clash as he pushes the other
way into abstraction. The disc closes with poignent tributes to drummer
Tony Williams who had recently died and their mentor
John Stevens. This disc is full of emotionally potent playing that
keeps the listener thinking long after the music ends. Philip
WIRE August 2003
Gjerstad met bassist Nick Stephens while they were both working with
John Stevens. Such was the drummers impact that, on the opening track
and on other animated passages its not hard to imagine his pit-a-pat
percussion moving through the space between double bass and sax. Stephens
is an excellent musician and this recording, made in 1997, is a welcome
opportunity to hear him close up and at length.
For much of North Atlantic Drift, Gjerstad slows right down, disclosing
reflective aspects of his playing. Stephens approximates the altoists
volatile tone with bowed harmonics but hes much more than just
a complimentary presence and he draws expertly on his instruments
wide communicative range to make sustained, substantial and imaginative
statements. Julian Cowley
Redwood, New York.
This duo is compelling, creating dark and icy improvisations of the
sort captured in the title (and, indeed, the liners indicate that each
studio session was preceded by long drives or walks through Norways
icy mountains or alongside the fjords).
Having met through the late John Stevens, catalyst for the British improv
and long time member of Gjerstads group Detail these two players
share a highly abstract though focused approach to free playing. Gjerstads
tart alto improvisations are indebted to Ornette Coleman, if not in
that vocabulary then in their logic. But outside of his favored trio
context, these duos also present a good opportunity to focus in on his
luxuriant tone. On sparse pieces like "Complex Area Persisting"
his breathy playing cozies up to the frosty arco of Stephens (a superb
bassist). Often their interaction results in the construction of a dense
lattice as they chase each others lines down and twist them into different
directions."High Southern Norway" is a somewhat startling
opener, slashing out of the speakers at you as Stephens fierce
playing throws out ominous shapes for Gjerstads alto to hurdle.
Yet on "Snake By The Lake," an entirely different territory
is explored as the delicate trills of the saxophone cautiously circle
the spooky arco rumble. "Falling Slowly" flutters like a bird,
with feathery lines appearing and disappearing in the upper register.
Ironically, perhaps, "Rising More Slowly" sounds better tethered.
But most earthy is the rhythmic invention of "Becoming Cyclonic"
These pieces are so dense that they may best be sampled a bit at a time,
but this fine duo is well worth the time and attention. Jason